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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simple gifts

People never cease to amaze. As a species, well, let’s just say that I often prefer to spend my time in the company of others (chickens being the perennial favorite). As individuals, though, there are so many who shine. I met three such last Wednesday: Becki and Mustaq Ahmed and their granddaughter, Kennedy.

Not this weekend immediately past, but the weekend before, Anne and I set up at the Bluffton Farmers’ Market on behalf of The Quarry Farm. We really didn’t have anything much to sell – a basket of tomatoes, a dozen glass jars of jelly, some notecards – but farmers’ markets are great places to get the message out, to do a little self-promotion. And with the second annual Acoustic Night coming up (Saturday, September 13, from 6 pm to whenever), it seemed like a good time to make a personal appearance, be a bit more high profile. Becki and Kennedy were wandering through the market when they saw our table and picked up a copy of the latest newsletter.

On Tuesday, Becki called and asked if we’d like some of her “small and knotty” apples. She’d seen that we ask for apples in our wish list and hoped that hers would prove acceptable. From my experience, I assured her, goats and pigs and donkeys and chickens and ducks and geese and turkeys aren’t the most discriminating of gourmands; so, yes, please, apples.

The Ahmeds and their apples

She and her family came out the next afternoon with two large containers full of fruit. We off-loaded the apples, enough to fill a large, red wheelbarrow typically used to transport hay and straw. It was an excessively humid day, as many have been of late; while there was precipitation, it was more of a sky-dripping, really, than rain. The wet had most everybody under cover: the pygmy and Nigerian goats under the pines, the turkeys and chickens at the base of the crab tree and under what remains of the forsythia, the pigs in their various shelters. The ducks and geese were gamboling about, too overjoyed with the quality of the day to bother with anything as mundane as visitors.

Elora

While we waited for the sanctuary residents to recognize their windfall, Kennedy, with Becki in tow, set out to deliver the good news and meet some of those about to benefit from their gift. Mustaq tagged along behind, photographing and filming their interactions.

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Humperdink and AndiThe giving roosterMister Bill, a recently arrived Boer goat, was the first to discover the largesse. He set to with a will, scattering bits of apple and not-so-bits of apple in a wide arc before him. The geese and the ducks discovered the bits, which alerted the chickens and the turkeys, and they tucked in. The pygmy goats followed the Ahmeds and Kennedy to the feast, where they stood on their hind legs, front feet braced on the edge of the barrow, and bobbed for apples. The three pot-bellied pigs rolled up next (three hours later, you could have almost literally rolled them away). Finally, the two Nigerian dwarf goats and the miniature donkey caught wind of the event and made their way over. It wasn’t long before the wheelbarrow was on its side, the apples spilled across the ground, allowing everybody easy access and laying waste to the old expression, “Don’t upset the apple cart.” All in all, a most wonderful day.

Buddy and company

Thank you for that, Becki and Mustaq and Kennedy. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.

 

Bright Sunday for a visit

Members of the Ottawa Presbyterian Church, Ottawa, Ohio, spent a couple of their Bright Sunday (the Sunday after Easter) hours on The Quarry Farm. This was yesterday, one day before heavy rain, and the during the warmest, sunniest bit of the weekend. The cold winds settled and the sun shone upon their arrival at Red Fox Cabin.

The 25 or so adults and children were the first to join us after this long, harsh winter. They were also the first to visit after the final stretch of fence was strung, just the day before, around the farm animal sanctuary. The gates held Beatrice in, although she, Buddy, and the goats were waiting at the north gate to greet each and every outstretched hand.

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Three Goats, Two Humans and the Very Small Car

Goat CarFive years ago, while bringing Anne home from a stint on the EPA  vessel Lake Guardian, her car, a seven year old Toyota we bought used to begin with, gave up the ghost in dramatic fashion. As we came into Findlay from the east, the car gave a thump and a shudder and began belching thick, black smoke.

We limped into town and into the first car dealership we came to, then walked the roughly half-of-a-mile down to a second, having seen nothing we were interested in at the first. There Anne spotted a Scion xA and almost immediately fell in love. We had her old Toyota towed to the dealership and used it as a downpayment on what she now fondly refers to as her “little rollerskate.” If you’re unfamiliar with the xAs, they’re a smaller version of the current xD and similar in shape to the Honda Fit. In short, they’re microSUVs.

We’ve hauled just about everything in that little car: hawks, falcons, vultures, pigs, dogs, cats, ducks, geese, foxes, opossums, crows, owls over a dozen species of songbird, 55 gallon aquariums, bales of hay and straw and the list goes on. Most recently, Anne’s Little Rollerskate faced what we thought would be its greatest challenge: three pygmy goats.

Willow

Willow

We’ve talked for years about maintaining a small herd of dairy goats, but the closest we’ve come are Marsh and S’more, the two Nigerian Dwarf wethers that have lived on The Quarry Farm for nearly three years now. So, when we were told about these three goats, an intact buck and two does, we contacted the woman with whom they lived. As with so many others, the recession had hit her hard. Having been without work for months and still recovering from a necessary surgery nearly a year ago, she found herself without the means to care for her herd of goats. Most went to a local farm (she lives in Rootstown, south of Ravenna in eastern Ohio), but she was left with these three until she contacted The Quarry Farm.

Alaura

Elora

It was a miserable day for a drive when we left Putnam County. There was just enough snow to make the roads treacherous and it took nearly four hours to make a trip that should have taken only three. Add to that some skepticism on my part that we’d be able to fit three adult goats and ourselves in Anne’s little subcompact and it made for a tense trip.

As it turns out, I should have left my doubts at home.

Martigan

Once we arrived at our destination, we were delighted to discover that the goats were even smaller than we’d imagined. The older doe and the buck, Willow and Madmartigan respectively, stand no taller than eighteen inches at the shoulder, while Elora, the younger doe, is even smaller. Even with a full set of horns, horns that we initially padded turban-like with a towel, Madmartigan could easily stand up straight in the car, and all three were able to move freely around the cargo compartment.

Martigan Home

Martigan

The ride home was uneventful and we introduced all three to their new living quarters. Now they’re permanent members of The Quarry Farm family. And you’re all welcome to come and visit them and the rest of the facility. Just give us a call. We’ll be happy to show you around.

NOTE: Before anyone tells us that we have the wrong kind of goats for milking, we know. The animals that live here on the conservation farm of The Quarry Farm are here because, in almost all cases, they had nowhere else to go and we could offer them a home. Most do carry their weight: goats eat invasive plants, chickens give us eggs, Buddy and the geese guard the property, etc. The pygmies will make it possible for school groups and other visitors to see goats being milked. And we’ll have goat milk.