Third time’s a charm

IMG_0826The Junior Gardeners of Continental were one of the first groups to visit The Quarry Farm after we officially opened to the public three years ago. I distinctly remember the initial telephone conversation with organizer Charlene. She had picked up our newsletter and wanted to bring her charges out for a program. She didn’t sound too sure about the whole idea, but her group arrived and we had a fantastic time. Guess they did, too, because they spent two hours with us on Saturday, this time searching for butterfly host and nectar plants on a scavenger hunt.

IMG_1107Beatrice met up again with her good friend Brandon, the first person she would approach of her own accord after her arrival in 2012 as a very young pot-bellied piglet. Although Brandon had some slick new wheels this year and Beatrice was sleepy in the July humidity, she knew him well. So did Buddy.008

Megan Ramey, Program and Partnerships Manager for the Girl Scouts of Western Ohio, arrived just before the Junior Gardeners to talk with us about the possibility of scouts earning various badges here. Thanks to the joyous enthusiasm of Charlene and her crew, a star of a Virginia opossum and Laura’s coffee and sugar cookie bars, we’re in.

Here’s to more face time with the kids from Continental. Special thanks to Junior Gardener Jazlyn Bishop for sharing your photos and video with us. Keep them coming.

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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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These little piggies went to the vet—and screamed the whole way

Hung-over Auntie Gertie* and Princess Beatrice Buttercup went to the vet’s in Lima today, and they both lived up to their adored full names.

I awoke this morning to the meeps of little Birdy—ironically a cat—pacing back and forth in front of my door, whining to get out. Beatrice stood on the other side of the egress, snuffling and rooting at its base. I pulled my sleep-addled self out of bed and dressed myself quickly.

Birdy shot from the room like a streak of lightning, while Beatrice attempted to bull her way in. Pushing her back caused a grunt and grumble of indignation, and she squealed in anger as I shut the door in her face.

unnamedMum (or Anne as you all know her) was rushing around in the living room, slapping the kettle on and brushing back her hair in impatience, as she always does after her run in the morning. She looked up and grinned , then ran about a little bit more, cleaning out the back of her small Toyota Matrix. We threw back some tea as fast as possible, and hopped to the process of loading the pigs.

The three of us, Mum, Dad (Steve), and I, decided that the best course of action was to load Gertrude first, being the less likely of the two to spring from the car. So up she went, straight from the porch into the car, which was parked right off the edge. (Thanks to the weather for no more rain, but a wonderfully hard-packed and frozen ground.) She bellowed and kicked as she was hauled in, nearly knocking me down on the descent from porch to ground, but she’s so much smaller than she was, it’s almost easy getting her to go where it is you want.

Little Pig (now, amusingly enough, the larger of the two), however, is ridiculously difficult to move about. She’s built like a tank but moves as fast as a bullet, make no mistake. So this time, Mum and I set to cornering her in the house, but our efforts were pitiful at best. Outside she had to go, but never near enough to the edge to spring for it. Unfortunately, she screams like a banshee, and Gertie is highly protective of her big wee bunkmate, so when Beatrice starts caterwauling, Gertie moves faster than appears possible.

She sprang forward out of the car, got her front feet on the side of the deck, slipped, did a spectacular flip, and hit the ground, unharmed but trapped. She remained there, dazed but much calmer, while we figured out how to get Beatrice into the car. We ended up flipping her upside down and holding her aloft by her little legs. This sounds cruel, but it didn’t hurt her, and I ended up with plenty more bruises and scrapes in comparison by the end of the morning.

After getting her half into the car, I leapt in with her and pulled her front end whilst Dad pushed from the back, and in doing so we finally managed to get her squealing self in. Mum had to pull the car forward so we could get to Gertie, who stared up at us with an expression of utter distaste. Mum and Dad held her up and thrust her in and I scrambled out of the back before either could jump for it.

I moved into the front passenger’s seat as Mum leapt into the driver’s and we took off to Lima. On our back-route way to Lima we ran into a construction area with a one-lane stretch. Each of the ODOT employees we passed did a double take, their Carhartted forms spinning, allowing the small slit of exposed flesh and eyes to stare. I am sure that beneath their scarves and masks, bemused expressions adorned their faces.

We arrived at the Lima Animal Hospital at 0915, and I went in to make sure that the appointment was still doable. The woman at reception assured me that we were fine, but could we please go through the back as there was a woman in with a euthanasia patient. I said we would—it was in fact the route which we looked on as preferable. Princess Beatrice, however, had other plans.

We hauled her out and were pulling her toward the door when she slipped out of her rope and headed into the parking lot. This vet’s office is along Elida Road in Lima, a very busy main route that runs past the mall and many shops and fast food restaurants. Terror is what is experienced when your four-legged fellows make a dash across a short lot by this road.

Mum and I chased her a bit, and I did—if I say so myself—a spectacular dive into the asphalt, collecting myself many of the aforementionedS nice scrapes and bruises. I managed to get a grip on one of her hind-legs and Mum the other, but we lost it again (and my glasses to a bush). We finally wrangled her closest to the front door and pulled her in. Mum went back out to close up the back of the car to ensure that Gertie wouldn’t make a leap, however unlikely it would be.

As I opened the door, this poor woman looked up, her eyes puffed and red, looking at Beatrice in slight nervousness. I apologized again and again as the woman looked on. She looked nervously at Beatrice and asked tearily, “Does she bite?”

“Oh no.” I patted the princess and looked up at the woman. “You can pet her if you want; she’d love it.”

So the woman leaned down and patted Beatrice’s face. I would like to say that Little Pig responded in kind and brushed her face against the woman, but being as disgruntled as she was, she merely grunted and walked the length of the hall, away from the two of us. The woman gave a choked giggle and left through the front. If she ever reads this, I hope she knows that she is not alone:  the mad girl with insane hair with the even madder pig and other company understands and hopes that she has many more wee friends in the future.

I stayed in the patient’s room with Beatrice as Mum got Gertie out of the car and into building (through the side door this time, as asked). It went pretty smoothly after that; Gertie went in to have her hooves trimmed first. She was true to form and shuffled slowly in and went straight for the cushioned bed. The doctor and Megan McCoy carried her out to the car and eased her into the back while she was still out.

unnamedBeatrice whined and grunted, pushed and pummeled, until Dr. Babbitt got the mask over her snout, and she fought the laughing gas as long as she could until she lowered herself—still not on the cushion, thank you!—and fell into sleep. Her hooves took very little time to trim, and then we had to figure out how to get her back to the car as well. Beatrice hasn’t been weighed since she was tiny, and she has gained quite a bit since then. The four of us, Mum, Megan, Dr. Babbitt, and myself, hauled her up by rolling her onto her back and carrying her by her hooves, each of us to a leg. We went back in to pay, and off we went. The poor pigs were so out of it, but Beatrice sat up the entire trip, staring dazedly and moodily back at the ODOT workers as we passed by them again.

We lifted the still-groggy Gertie out of the car and urged Beatrice to jump out on her own—we’d done enough lifting for the day.

This is a cautionary tale for all those who think that the cute little piglet would be a wonderful pet. While they bestow joy and great fun, and a kind of bond and understanding one finds very rarely, they are not to be taken on lightly. They’re work, hard work; the term “pigheaded” wasn’t created as an amusing joke, it is true. I rarely meet anyone so stubborn as Beatrice or Gertie. They grow from that cute wee piglet into adulthood the size of a medium to large dog—at least Beatrice did. She was supposed to stay as small as she was when we got her. She did not. And you should try putting her in a harness. Lord, the screaming. However, if you are up to the task, pigs are ahhhh-mazing. There is nothing quite like sitting with a cup of tea and a book in hand, your feet propped up on the stomach of a pig. (And you had better be working those feet in a scratching way. Elsewise she will get up and leave you. Jerk.)

*I named Gertie “Hung-over Aunti Gertie” in recognition of her behavior. Her temper is short, and is almost always found on her cushion beneath the stairs, a blanket pulled up over her head. When she snores, I swear, I almost see the fizzes and pops coming from her nose as she expels breath.

You don’t have to be a star (but it’s really fun)

The new greenhouse north of Red Fox Cabin was of interest to the Owens class as they are considering one of this size for a butterfly house.

The new greenhouse north of Red Fox Cabin was of interest to the Owens class as they are considering one of this size for a butterfly house.

Been awhile, but with good cause. Seems as though weekly (or biweekly) posts may be the new norm of spring at the Quarry Farm.

On May 29, seven people from Owens Community College, Toledo Campus, drove down I-75 and made their way here, despite the Road 7L sign being missing from the turn off State Route 12. Jeannie Wiley Wolf, Findlay Courier reporter, almost didn’t find us to do an interview for an article that appeared in that newspaper on May 28. Steve says the sign mysteriously disappeared some time ago. Anyway, Owens’ Associate Professor Joanne Roehrs got the van here.

Owens2The students are working to obtain the Urban Agriculture and Sustainability Certificate, a new offering at Owens. All of them have sweat-equity in the urban community gardens in Toledo, especially in the Robert J. Anderson Agriculture Training Center and greenhouses (900 Oneida Street; Toledo, OH 43608) which are projects of Toledo GROWs, the community gardening outreach program of Toledo Botanical Garden. The Anderson Center is used as an educational forum for Owens Community College students who are studying urban agriculture. The Center is also an open-air classroom where under-privileged youth are educated on growing sustainable nourishment.

While on the Quarry, Roehrs and her Livestock Animal Husbandry students focused on the organic gardening projects, the wild bee boxes and the farm animal sanctuary. They study beekeeping through the hives at the Anderson Center. We were able to tell them what not to do with bees, from firsthand experience, and of plans for new bees in 2014. Beatrice of the whirligig tail was our model sanctuary adoption success story as she greeted all with charming, intelligent porcine loveliness.

If you are, or know of someone who is looking at new, relevant career option investment, this is a program to explore:

From that point until 11:59 a.m. on June 6, preparations were made for the arrival and tour of 90 individuals, mostly K-8 graders, from Columbus Grove Local Schools’ after-school summer program. For coverage of that Quarry Farm landmark event, I’ll let the press do the talking. Diane Myer of Black Swamp Raptor Rehabilitation Center, Stacey Cook of Hometown Station WLIO, Nancy Kline of the Voice and Alex Woodring of the Putnam County Sentinel, volunteers Cathy, Shannon, Jonelle, Brendon, Cherie and Dakota, you all wear superhero capes. As long as the links hold, here’s the news from June 6:

Putnam County Sentinel:

The Lima News/Putnam Voice:
plus photo gallery:

Couldn’t ask for more. Maybe sleep. But that’s OK, more than OK. As WLIO’s anchor Jeff Fitzgerald noted, “They say it should  be shared.” And we do.

When the Frost Is On the Donkey

There was a hoary frost this morning. Donkey and goats were the first to be watered and fed, mostly because Buddy’s braying echoed resoundingly across the fields to bounce off the neighboring homes and farms. Buddy must have been at his post in the southeast corner of the paddock, watching the house for signs of movement for some time since a thick layer of frost iced his back. Once the boys were satisfied with fresh hay and the roosters had their feed, I had to run for the camera.

I figured I would take another photo on my way back for more water buckets. Just one more. The sunflowers still have a few seeds to feed the birds. Almost to the front door at the top of the path that leads to the nature preserve, Gertie’s blankets hung to dry. The bright contrasts of orange, yellow and green struck against the crystal grays, blues and browns of the treeline.

Although there are few this year, the osage orange trees have dropped their fruit beside Cranberry Run. The only green otherwise are the dreadful invasive honeysuckle, but the red berries of the shrub are undeniably jewels for the returning slate-colored juncos and other snowbirds. I made it to the old stone quarry in time to capture the mist and sunrise above the wetland. Photos never do their subject true justice, but there you have it at the top of the post.

The frost layers have peeled away and are snowing to the ground. The sun is high enough that some of the frost is more like cold rain, at least under the trees. The hens have eaten their fill for now and Beatrice is on cleanup. I’m off to the road myself.

We’re Still Here

A downed tree blocks the footbridge

Last week’s derecho left a few downed trees over the trails here on the Quarry, but they’ll be clear by the time the Defiance County Junior Master Gardeners’ visit on July 11.

The big impediment to the clearing progress has been and still is the heat. Still no power, which means no blog, no running water nor AC and ice water for the our small clean-up crew. Blessings be on our neighbors for offering the use of their hand pump so the farm animals can be fresh-watered. The wading pool wasn’t filled fast enough for Beatrice the pygmy pot-bellied pig, though. Her Royal Porcine Highness did her best last evening to have a lie-down in the dogs’ water bowl.

If you’re out this way and have a cool, powered home with shower to return to, stop by for a nice game of pick-up-sticks along the paths. There could be a cookie or two in it for you at the cabin.

Pig in a Blanket

The newest resident of the conservation farm is in recovery as I type. Beatrice the pygmy pot-bellied pig was spayed this afternoon by Dr. Kathleen Babbitt of Lima Animal Hospital. Vet Tech Kaylie called with the news that Beatrice came through surgery with flying colors. Dr. Babbitt took lots of photos with her cell phone, including the image posted here.

Although Beatrice has only been with us for several days, our research led us to the conclusion that it would best for her health (and our collective sanity) to have her spayed as soon as possible. Seems that as they age, intact female pigs are prone to fibroids and abdominal tumors.

This morning this sweet pig thoroughly explored the back rooms and surgery of the hospital before I left for work. Although she squealed lustily (quite piercingly, actually) when I picked her up to put her back in the carrier, Dr. Babbitt exclaimed, “I love her!” Lord love her, that woman is a joy and a godsend to our sanctuary as she is the only vet in a five-county radius willing and able to take on The Quarry Farm pigs, crows, and Johnny the Canada goose.

More about Beatrice later. In the meantime, you just have to love this little face.