Get off my yawn

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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..

A recap, with goat wrestling

2016-07-01_13.26.20Steve is wrestling with Mister Bill in the cool of the evening. This has become the routine this week after the temperatures fell out of the upper 80s and into the 60s by dusk. Bill scampers up the ramp and down the steps to mock charge. Steve holds the giant goat’s horns–lightly so as not to challenge–and Bill tosses his head and off he goes again on his gangly giraffe legs.

This playtime is to make-up for Bill’s banishment to Sophie’s corral during summer’s Family Day. The big lug likes to hug, but his horns are part of the mighty embrace. If you’re not familiar with his ways, a Mister Bill show of affection can be alarming and uncomfortable.

So one week ago today he watched from a distance as 70 some people came to visit, seeing a long-eared owl, kestrel, red-tailed hawk and turkey vulture from Black Swamp Raptor Rehab, a wild juvenile bald eagle overhead. Laura demonstrated how to make a cement-and-fiber pot. Bush honeysuckle was repurposed as hiking sticks and leaves were made lasting on t-shirts.IMG_5218

Mister Bill did meet a troop of Daisies the next day. The girls made hiking sticks in the pavilion as a brief but heavy rain thundered over its red roof. Lemonade and cookies later, they set forth on a trek along the stream to meet Bill, Buddy and everyone else who decided to come forward after the shower.

On the hike back, they saw a leopard frog along the creek, a tiny toad in the raingarden and three different dragonflies: a widow skimmer, a white tail, and at least two twelve spots in the pollinator garden. IMG_20160626_155257

Flowing back in time through two townships

Quarry and CreekThere’s a lot of history in and around The Quarry Farm, not to mention up the road.

On the opposite side of the block stands a log home constructed by Tom McCullough. Like our Red Fox Cabin, McCullough’s place isn’t a Putnam County native, but did stand in the United States during the country’s first 100 years. The 2.5-story building started out in Reading, Pennsylvania, was relocated here in 2008 and reconstructed by a professional antique cabin firm and kitted out with local 19th century furniture.

Bridenbaugh OrganistNorth on the same road and across Riley Creek is Bridenbaugh Schoolhouse. Imagine a one-room schoolhouse on every country mile and you will picture the education system as it once was in rural Ohio. In 1997, Dale Bridenbaugh restored the schoolhouse on his farm to what could have been its original 1889 glory.Peggy Bridenbaugh

RC with signCross the Riley on the c. 1876 M-6 bridge, itself listed in the Historic American Engineer Record as an example of “Morrison’s Patent Wrought Iron Arch Truss Bridge,” travel about a mile and a half north on 7L and sit in the stillness and peace of Riley Creek United Methodist Church. The church was founded in 1850 and is still active in one large, lofted room. Sun and moonlight filter through etched and stain-glass windows to pool on handmade wooden pews. The long upright-backed benches glow with the hand polish and years of congregational sitting, but the names of former youth break the smooth surfaces here and there.

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Cabin MomSaturday broke records for December warmth and, although we could use some rain or snow to soften the dry bed of the quarry, the weather was perfect for the first Old Time Riley Creek Christmas Tour. All of the above were stops on the route. All were decorated for the holidays, most as they may have been long ago. Riley and Pleasant Township saw plenty of driving tourists as a result. One of the visitors was Pandora’s Dr. Darrell Garmon. He walked up the path through the Red Fox Cabin gardens and introduced himself as Dr. Garmon and as the person who poses as Sea Captain James Riley.

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Fox StatueNext door, Carlton, Beatrice and the other potbellies, a speckling of chickens and Johnny Goose gathered at the farm animal sanctuary fence corner closest to the hubbub. Lucy’s foghorn bray paused more than one conversation. Two tourists left the cabin and stopped at the gate where the turkeys were on full display. Buddy took issue with the attention the boys were getting, so he grabbed a mouthful of tail feathers, spit them out and smiled. True story – the couple took a photo and promised to share it with us.

For now, the images above will do.

Creativity in the garden

The Seitz Family Pavilion resembled a construction site this morning as bags of concrete, vermiculite, and vinyl patch were piled under its roof in preparation for a make-it-take-it workshop at The Quarry Farm.

Under the tutelage of Board President Laura, the Gardening Basket Herb Society, with members from Putnam, Hancock, and Hardin counties, made a variety of containers and stepping stones for use in their gardens.

IMG_4989There were the makings for hypertufa pots, that mysterious stuff that resembles wet kitty litter when mixed but dries with a unique surface that, to me, makes a plant look as though it is thriving in an earthen sculpture.

IMG_4992Plastic buckets and pails of concrete were stirred with great big spoons and paddles to make steppers and then decorated with everything from glass beads to shells and aquarium stone. More concrete was pressed over leaves arranged on sand mounds to create leaf bowls.

Slurries —concrete ‘gravy’ — were dabbed and poured over draped towels and other cloths to make fabric pots.

IMG_4985There were also marbles, glass pebbles, press letters and crockery bits with which to ornament the finished containers, if the students so chose. Unbeknownst to the group, these sparklies had been perused on Wednesday night by a couple of juvenile raccoons. I heard them chattering from next door as I was putting the chickens to bed.

I think the masked marauders were unimpressed. Although one bag of marbles was on the grass off the concrete pad, all the shiny bits were contained.

Superheroes swoop in on Saturday (no capes!)

GardenEveryone has stuff to do. Some of us are list makers, like Quarry Farm Board President Laura. Others have swirls of snippets of chatter spinning through their brain, like yours truly. Or little notes jotted on the backs of envelopes stuffed in the glove compartment, drawers and/or stacked on the kitchen table (again, fingers pointing right back.) Betty and BuddyHere on The Quarry Farm, there is always so much to do. Water tubs and buckets to clean and refill, food to prep and food bowls to juggle, hungry potbellies to restrain, hinnying donkeys to brush, and buildings to clean, rinse and repeat. This year, we have buildings to paint. And that’s just in the farm animal sanctuary. In the gardens of Red Fox Cabin, the long wait for nature to prevail over invasives is one which has yet to be won. But Nature is making headway, with a little help from her friends. After years of solarizing beds and hand-picking beetles rather than spraying and dusting, has allowed natural insect predators to get a foothold. The gigantic rainbarrel that collects droplets from the roof of Red Fox Cabin is almost always full for the watering. BillBut those of us who currently ‘mind the store’ rarely have the opportunity to check everything off our wish list. Last Saturday — that golden day — we got to pen a whole host of checkmarks. About a month ago, I received an email from William Schumacher. I first met Bill when an Ohio Department of Natural Resources co-worker suggested that the man, an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency employee, might be willing to lend his expertise as a soil science presenter at a teacher workshop I was planning. It turns out that actually wasn’t the first time that I met Bill. He and his brothers Joe and Dan grew up along the opposite bank of Riley Creek. We rode the same school bus and developed the same love for nature while walking the creeks, pastures and woods. CarolGetting back to that email. Although Bill and his brothers no longer live nearby, they remember. They remember the fish that swam in Riley Creek and the pasture that their dad tended for years. And they’ve seen what happened to the creek when that floodplain pasture was plowed and subsequently eroded. They like the clear waters of Cranberry Run that flow through The Quarry Farm on their way to the Riley, so much so that Bill offered up his helping hand as well of those his wife Carol and their teenaged daughters and sons. Since his brother Joe was flying in from South Dakota and his brother Dan would also be up from the Dayton area, why, they could bring up their tools and pitch in to help us out, too. GardenBoy, did they ever. When Sophie the potbelly pig arrived here last month, she was so overweight that she couldn’t walk, much less be spayed. In less than eight hours, we had a new wooden fence in the quarantine area where Sophie is now dieting. DanThe butterfly gardens were weeded of quack grass, with straw down between the rows. Bill had dug and walled a kidney-shaped raingarden off the north gable of the cabin. Dan had led a crew along the south end of the Cranberry, clearing windfall from the path and cutting a big dent in bush honeysuckle along the way. Yatchi and HWords cannot sufficiently express our gratitude to the Schumachers. Instead, I’ll let the impressions of some of our youngest visitors say it for me. These drawings just arrived in the mail, sent to us by the third grade class from Pandora-Gilboa Elementary School following a day spent here on May 8. Those kids are one of the greatest reasons why we do what we do, so that these creeks, pastures and woods, as well as the nonhumans that share it, will mean as much to them as they did to much younger Bill, Joe, Dan and me. Still do.

all roads lead to OH-235 and at the end of the drive…pigs

Yesterday, Anne, Laura and I took half the day and drove south to Yellow Springs. Rowan’s there, engaged in a major of Environmental Sciences at Antioch College. It’s a great place to visit, even a groovy place, Yellow Springs having never entirely given up on hippy culture.

On the way, we crossed OH-235 and Laura made the comment that, seemingly, no matter where you’re going, there’s OH-235. We’d been on it just a few days before, coming back from a funeral, and here, unexpectedly, it was again.

Anne and I arrived home to a message from Laura Zitzelberger, the face and mind behind Nature’s  Nursery Center for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation Education. It seems that a potbellied pig had arrived uninvited at someone’s home and they’d called NN to see what could be done. Laura, in turn, called us and we closed the loop by calling June, the woman with the uninvited guest. She provided us with her address and we agreed to pick up the pig the next day (today, as I write this), Sunday.

In the morning, I input June’s address into mapquest. The recommended route sent me north on OH-235 for roughly an hour.

Go figure.

in the carStepping out of the car, I could hear him, the pig. He was quietly grunting, standing at the gate of a small outside kennel; behind him, a thick blanket that had served as his bed for the night. He trotted out, allowed me to scoop him up and we settled into the car for the drive back.

This is the second potbellied pig in less than one week to simply turn up, wandering without direction, without oversight and without hope. And while nowhere near one another – the first was discovered stumbling along State Route 65 in Columbus Grove and the second some 50 miles north – the trend is disturbing. It is, sadly, also not surprising. Visit any domestic animal rescue site and the sheer number of pigs up for adoption is staggering. RescueMe (what is, for us, the preeminent site for finding families and animals in need) is overburdened with people seeking new homes for pigs; not simply in Ohio, but all across the nation. And these are the people who are making an effort to re-home their companions.

Pigs are smart, strong, curious and obsessive. Left to their own devices, pigs will find a way; and, while cute and cuddly when little, most pigs don’t stay small. A low weight for a miniature potbellied pig is 60 pounds, but, while minis can maintain weights below 100 pounds, seeing pigs in excess of 100 pounds isn’t unusual. So, rather than the Chihuahua they were expecting, they wind up with an animal closer in size to a Labrador, or something even larger. All too often, these pigs that have grown bigger than anticipated are simply abandoned, turned out and left to fend for themselves. Within months, even the most docile and diminutive of pigs may revert to a feral state: growing tusks and thicker hair and becoming leaner and more muscular. Pigs returned to the wild, intentionally or not, within three generations will assume the physical attributes of their boar ancestry, no matter their ancestry. This is just as true of potbellied pigs as it is of Chinas and Polands.

But not this pig. He’s here for the long haul, or in another, similar environment.. He’s an intact adolescent male, but that condition won’t last long. Tomorrow, we’ll contact The Quarry Farm’s veterinarian and arrange for a bit of a snip. Tomorrow we’ll also contact the Wood County Humane Society and let them know he’s here.

Just in case someone’s interested.

getting to know you

A New Year’s Day walk below the wind

IMG_2737This new year looks bleak, with harsh, cold wind and an absence of snow. Thursday afternoon, I walked down the lane and had to fight to open the gate against bluster, feeling the cold bite of the latch’s surface through my work gloves. No one followed me to the gate in hopes of treats. I’m sure no apple slices could beat shelter on the sunny side of any outbuilding.

I made it just about 50 yards down the road before ducking down into the lowland along Cranberry Run, where the drop behind Red Fox Cabin blocked the wind. So cold were the trees that they hummed, except for Osage orange trees. These woven, thorny trees make sort of a whirring whine in frigid wind chill (truly exhilarating when one is walking on the trail at night…alone.)

IMG_2736Winter came on so suddenly that many of the Osage fruits are green and whole, their sticky white latex ooze flash-frozen to the ground. The fruit is not poisonous to us mammals, but I hear it’s not much to taste. Further on down the creek, on the east side of the footbridge, I saw something, maybe a fox squirrel, made use of an orange as a food source.

The sun is cold and farther away at the start of the year, a white sun in gray blue sky. Even the bane of the understory, bush honeysuckle, is leafless this year without a snow blanket. No green, other than the Osage fruits, was visible on Jan. 1, 2015. This is a good thing, I know; maybe this will give the maples and oak seedlings a chance to fill in the spaces left where the 2012 derecho took out so many mature trees.

IMG_2739IMG_2734The wind was so high and wild above the creek valley that I saw few birds, not even on the old stone quarry. This winter it is full of water, frozen with reflections of rich, ruddy browns, gold, and sky. There are no breaks in the still quarry’s surface, but Cranberry Run’s riffles keep a brisk pace, leaving open holes here and there, especially below the high blue clay banks at the northwest point of the nature preserve. Two birds, so in shadow that I couldn’t identify the species more than to say they are large songbirds, dipped in the water below a bare root hackberry that has held the top of the bank for as long as I can remember.

IMG_2741The camera, a treasured Rebel of my dad’s, said ‘no more’ to the cold, so I tucked it inside my blanket coat and headed back the way I came. At the top of the hill near The Quarry Farm entrance sign, I tucked my chin closer to the camera, wrapped my scarf around my head and ran for the gate.

With my eyes so adjusted to discerning the different hues of browns, the greeting party under the apple tree was a shock to the senses. Wrapped in new thermal coats, Buddy and the boys were like presents under the tree.

What a happy sight to begin a new year. Rain is promised for Saturday. Luckily, these coats of many colors are waterproof. I think I’ll stay inside and watch.

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