Fall 2019 Newsletter

Prior to this summer, Board President Laura had dreamed of establishing an outdoor classroom along the main upland trail. Sam Schroeder, Eagle Scout candidate from Glandorf Troop 229, accepted the challenge. Once the trails dried out enough to transport supplies to the designated site, Sam went to work clearing invasive shrubs and small trees. He is currently constructing benches to seat future students and workshop participants.

Check out the project in person on Saturday, September 14, when you stop by to hear musical artist Russ Gibson in concert right here on Road 7L. Read concert details and what’s been happening on The Quarry Farm this summer as well as what’s coming up this fall; just click on the Fall 2019 Newsletter cover here on this post.

Kings of the mountain

IMG_1622The mountains of Ohio are some distance from here: the highest point is an hour’s drive near Bellefontaine and the Appalachian foothills two hours more to the southeast. The Quarry Farm does house a valley and blue clay walls rise west above Cranberry Run, but the floodplain levels out east for some distance before it marches back up to the ridge trail and the grassland.

The point is that it’s pretty flat on the edge of the Great Black Swamp, just before land starts to pitch and roll a bit. There aren’t many climbing opportunities apart from trees and playground equipment. There certainly aren’t for goats, and most do love a good climb.

So Rowan brought a climb to them. She research designs and materials. She bookmarked wooden platforms with ramps and towers made of giant cable spools. IMG_1610She frowned a lot when I said that head butting and a large pig would probably bash any kind of platform to bits, but she held her ground. She revised her plans, rounded up tractor tires, dug and chipped free sub-baked soil to fill them and created a goat mountain at the edge of the former paddock. There’s also an arch for head-scratchingIMG_1632

IMG_1623After all the hard work and sweat, no one showed any interest in playing on the new station–not in May or June or into July, until this evening when I pulled through the gate and saw Mister Bill gazing out over the hillside from the highest level. He must have got the ball rolling because Martigan tried it out,too…after Billy left the vicinity.

As another bus rolls by

3 GeeseThis is the week when, beyond the preserve perimeter and the latch of the gate, the yellow buses begin to roll with the new school year. In the heavy, humid morning air — doesn’t seem to matter if the temperature is high or low — there are 1/2 mile shouts of “Bus!” from siblings who are already out the front door to another sibling who is in the throes of mid-adolescent groom.

Giant SwallowtailThis week isn’t just an adjustment for school-age children and their families, or drivers who must adjust their drive to work because of reactivated bus traffic. The grasses and lone trees at roads side rustles this time of year with ground birds, pre-teen fox kits, raccoon, shrews, voles and heat-seeking butterflies who, up to Sunday night, had to contend with one schedule of human activity and now must adjust to another noise and traffic level as they ready for colder weather or a move to warmer climate.

What I’m trying to say is, it’s back-to-school for all creatures great and small.

PearsIn the cool of the morning, all are active, seeking warm pools of breaking sun in the lee of open doors and east faces. Pears and volunteer apples glow amongst leaves made more green by contrast with the blue a.m. sky.Antonio

Inside the fence and tree line, new rooster Antonio and established cock-of-the-walk Freckles seem to have established a hierarchy, at least as far as the flock is concerned, although, based on past experience, they will always try to outcrow each other.

No one messes with the will of Bob, except for one white rabbit.

Waldo BobMardiganLucyAs the late summer days heat, the chickens bury themselves in dust bowls or sprawl on the decks with the goats. All the goats, that is except for Mister Bill, who digs deeper and deeper pits in the driveway gravel to escape the heat/cold/rain/wind/gnats, or just because.

Luckily, there’s field stone to fill and an active stone quarry two miles north, and pleasant company to make the effort all the more worthwhile.

Please, as you yield for the school bus, have a care for the the roadside as well.

 

lions and lambs, donkeys and chickens and geese and goats

In 1826, American folk artist and Society of Friends minister Edward Hicks created “The Peacable Kingdom”. While it’s not in a style that I find particularly appealing, the content of the painting, its message, strikes a chord. In the foreground are a number of different creatures, some of which I can’t identify simply because of the manner in which they were represented, but clearly both predator and prey lying down with one another. There are cherubim and seraphim, as well, and in the background, English settlers meeting with Native Americans.

1934.65

I don’t pay attention to the human interaction; so little, in fact, that I’m always surprised when I see it. Suffice it to say that there appears to be some manner of commerce taking place involving blankets and, given how that type of exchange often worked out to the detriment of Native Americans, I apparently choose to ignore it each and every time I view the painting. I simply refuse to see.

But the animals? Now that is an altogether different story. I relish those innocent interactions; revel in the way they coexist. And while it’s unlikely that, in the wild, a lion will lay down with a lamb, interspecies cooperation isn’t a rare event, particularly here on The Quarry Farm. I’ve grown accustomed to seeing the chickens ride Buddy, the resident miniature donkey, or any of the six goats that also live here. I’m not surprised to see Snitch, the neighbor’s cat, padding under Mister Bill, the extravagantly tall Boer goat mix, around a pig or two and sideling on by Johnny, the Canada goose. The goats play with the pigs, the pigs play with the chickens and Buddy whips everybody into a (relatively) friendly frenzy every now and again, especially now that spring is just around the corner. We’ve even seen wild rabbits lying out in the open and nursing little ones old enough to have left the nest, but still willing to nurse.

The Quarry Farm Musicians: Audrey, Buddy and S'More

The Quarry Farm Musicians: Audrey, Buddy and S’More

Even so, and despite all of that, I witnessed something the other morning that made me stop and stare.

Gigi

Gigi

Although we named him something altogether uncharacteristic of his gender, Gigi is a gander, an Emden goose who is, characteristically this time, very protective of the two geese in his flock. He came here several years ago from Van Buren State Park, where he and Louise (the other goose’s name is Henry and yes, yes, we know) were abandoned. Gigi can be so protective, so surly, in fact, that we encourage visitors to give the trio a wide birth. Gigi is the gander your mother always warned you about: quick to hiss and threaten and quicker still to follow through on that threat with a wing beating or a hard pinch with his bright orange bill.

Madmartigan

Madmartigan

Madmartigan is one of three pygmy goats that we adopted from a failing goat herd on the eastern side of Ohio four years ago. While generally good natured, like most goats, he has a fondness for his fodder. When food’s involved, all bets are off and he can, and does, do whatever he feels necessary to secure his own little patch of whatever. Being male, Madmardigan also has a ridiculously impressive set of horns, horns that spire up from the top of his head like twin missiles. And when he’s staking claim to a flake of hay or a patch of grass or an apple or three, he liberally applies those horns to heads and backsides and bodies; whatever he can reach to drive his point home.

Individually, these two are more often than not at the core of any discontent. Together, though, at least earlier this week, the two were quite fond of each other. Gigi would slide his neck along Madmartigan’s back and nibble through the hairs there and up his neck and behind his ears. For his part, Madmartigan would gently nudge him with his horns, prompt him to continue her gentle ministrations.

And so here we are on The Quarry Farm, our own peaceable kingdom.

They call me Mister Bill…

Bill

“He’s a big goat,” Sandy explained to Anne over the phone and via email. “People don’t understand how big he really is.”

Sandy was talking about Bill, a Boer goat that she and her husband, Doug, had raised from when he was smaller than a pygmy. And, trust me; she wasn’t kidding (no pun intended). Bill’s bigger than Buddy, the miniature donkey that guards The Quarry Farm: taller, anyway, and he’s the newest member of The Quarry Farm family.

Sandy and Doug drove him up from the Cincinnati area, from the farm that the couple is in the process of leaving. They were successful in placing the other animals that lived on their farm, but because of his size, Bill proved a special case. They’d raised him as a pet and they didn’t want him to go just anywhere, were anxious to see that he went someplace safe. After reviewing their options, they chose here and we’re grateful for that. Bill’s every bit as sweet as he is big.It took him a few days to work out just where he belonged in the loose-knit community of goats that already reside here, all of whom are less than half his size, but he did and the pygmies and Nigerian dwarfs are finding his arrival a real boon.

apple picki BillForget the fact that he scrapes out dust wallows for all his smaller cousins before digging up his own. Never mind that, in a pinch, the pygmies can take shelter from the sun in his shadow (and, yes, they do). What’s really important, what all the goats truly appreciate him for (and the pigs, if we’re being honest), is his reach. Standing on his back legs with his forelegs braced against the trunk of a tree and stretching for all he’s worth, Bill can pretty easily top seven feet. And when the trunk he’s braced against is that of an apple tree, well, let’s just say that Sir Isaac Newton would have received more than one lesson on the effects of gravity. Another way of putting it is to say that, rather than a windfall, the animals here are benefiting from a Billfall. Seriously…who needs a cherry picker with Bill around? Not the wee beasties of The Quarry Farm.

So, welcome home, Bill. Well come, indeed.

The gang of goats