Fall 2020 Newsletter

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Summer 2020 didn’t go according to plan, but then none of this year has been business-as-usual. This very warm season was active, nonetheless, with virtual visits with the Bluffton Public Library, small group outings on the trails, and new volunteers who helped clear invasive bush honeysuckle.
August 7 was the final Facebook Live segment in the “Quarry Farm Fridays with the Bluffton Public Library”. Donkeys Buddy, Lucy and Silkie were the featured stars, although S’more the Nigerian Dwarf Goat and Chablis the Llama made cameo appearances.

The Quarry Farm is currently Putnam County’s #1 birding hotspot on eBird.org, thanks to Deb Weston and David Smith. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology created eBird in 2002 as an online database of bird observations providing scientists, researchers and amateur naturalists with real-time data about bird distribution and abundance. When Deb wasn’t logging spring and summer miles on the trails to document and photograph most of the 201 species of birds currently on our hotspot list, she was leading other avian enthusiasts here. View some of Deb’s bird photos in this newsletter and on our website. You can also join Deb for birding on the trails if you register for the “October Big Day” scheduled for October 17.

Until the latter part of the 19th century, most of Putnam County was part of the Great Black Swamp in what is now the physiographic region known as the Huron-Erie Lake Plains. But the southeast portion of the county was a slightly higher area with drier prairies as well as wetlands. This area, now called the Central Lowland, is where The Quarry Farm is located. While the 50-acres probably included upland and lowland forest, floodplain and wetland, grassland may have been here, too. For this reason, the 10-acre grassland is undergoing substantial maintenance this year, thanks to Brad Brooks. Brad began by brush-hogging the area that had been overrun by invasive grass species. He is currently clearing small trees and shrubs, leaving native oaks, sycamores and ash in certain areas to provide shade and shelter to wildlife.

The August 8 Family Day included a number of stations where groups learned about trees, insects, herbs, and the farm animal sanctuary. Rick Carles, acting president of the Blanchard River Archeology Club, was on hand outside the c.1853 Red Fox Cabin to demonstrate pioneer and Native American skills. The event attracted local media who aired and printed interviews with board members and Family Day visitors.

Although we are not able to offer hands-ons projects this year, we are able to lead small groups on hikes in the nature preserve and tours of the farm animal sanctuary. If you wish to schedule an outdoor visit onsite during Fall 2020, send an email to thequarryfarm@gmail.com with a details about your group, including number of people, ages, and possible dates and times.

‘Gotta Get Gund’

The headline of this post is a slogan from some years ago. The toymaker Gund used it to promote sales of their plush animals. It’s borrowed to encourage Easter bunnies to place toy rabbits, chicks and ducklings in baskets this Spring and to discourage everyone from giving live animals as gifts.

Brownie is our resident spotlight in the Spring 2020 Quarry Farm Newsletter which you may download by clicking on the cover to the right. Brownie rules a small flock of Rouen ducks in The Quarry Farm farm animal sanctuary. This expressive lady even took under her gentle (but firm) wing a young Canada Goose placed here for release by Nature’s Nursery. The gosling, creatively known here as “Baby Goose,” is so enamored of Brownie that she sleeps with her in the hen house at night, even though Baby Goose is now fully-feathered and can fly.

Brownie was surrendered to us by someone who acquired her as a duckling. Although Rouens look very much like large Mallards, Rouens are a heavyweight breed of domesticated duck that originated in France sometime before the 19th century. While Mallards are wild, lightweight flyers, Rouens weigh between 9 and 10 pounds and can only fly short distances. Brownie prefers to waddle-march around the sanctuary, sliding nimbly under the paddock gates to attend to whatever piques her considerable interest.

We spotlight Brownie here not only for her charming personality but as a reminder to refrain from purchasing live rabbits, chicks and ducklings as Easter gifts in April. Each year, Easter pets die cruelly from neglect or mistreatment or are surrendered to animal shelters that receive a surge of unwanteds. These animals are given up after owners lose interest or become unable to care for them. Others that are not taken to shelters are “set free” into the wild where they have no knowledge or experience at foraging or evading predators. Death is inevitable. Those that may survive become part of feral colonies of domestic and hybrid birds that cause problems for native wildlife.

Statistics indicate that within the first weeks after the holiday, 30 percent of all Easter pets die, and another 60 percent to 70 percent are abandoned or turned in to shelters. Instead of a Brownie, fill your Easter basket with a fuzzy toy and gelatin-free jelly beans.

Caring for Nature’s Kidneys

The Quarry Farm newsletter for the winter season is at the printer. It’s also available for download—handily click on the cover to ‘receive’ your copy. But budget and conservation of natural resources limits that piece of paper to an 11″ x 17″ piece of paper folded to supply four printed pages. That’s the great thing about this website. We can share more stories and photos in between issues.

This newsletter contains details about engineer David Seitz’s most recent onsite project. This summer and fall, David began to engineer a system that would temper sediment loading from Cranberry Run and help the quarry wetland do its job as a natural water treatment system and wildlife habitat. His daughter Aili has been helping him bring the project to fruition. David is documenting the project via email to Board President Laura. As newsletter space is limited, here’s the rest of the story, so far.

August 15

Aili worked a bit across the creek with the string trimmer, going around the quarry. I kept going south on the west side path, with the brush cutter. Cut through about 40 yards of honeysuckle thicket, and the path is now open almost to the property line. But all the brush from the thicket is still on the path, and needs to be cleared from the path. Also a log down across the path at eye level. Can duck under, but it wants cutting with the chain saw. Will work on that on a windy day. 

September 11

I moved the dead tree which had fallen on the bank, partially blocking the path, and the outlet (gap) of the quarry. Is now much easier to walk south on the east side of the creek, and right on past the quarry. Moved a few rocks up out of the creek bed, and built up the quarry outlet a bit with them. Heavy work. Staggering through the shallow water carrying the rocks is not so good. I think moving them on the red cart would be OK. The creek bottom is mostly flat in that section, with a bit of sand. Saw my favorite invertebrate in the pool…a crawdad! Hadn’t seen one in decades. After I disturbed the sediment, he moved in to look for a snack.

September 17

Was planning to stop hauling and shovel some dirt, but I found a really nice rock, biggest of the day, in the creek bed. Couldn’t resist it! Took 20 minutes to get it on the cart, and 20 more minutes to get it to the quarry gap. And then couldn’t lift it. Finally got the cable puller and strap, to keep it from falling back on my feet. With pulling and pushing, got it up on top. For sure, need to start backing the stone wall with some dirt. Will start shoveling dirt onto the quarry side of the rocks next week. 

October 2

I came by today to work on building up the support for the rock wall. Moved about 2 cubic yards of dirt from the quarry to the bank, behind the rock wall. Basically just kept shoveling till I thought the “south quarry gap” and channel were adequately supported for a small to medium flood. Three and a half hours with the shovel, so I was a bit tired, at the end. Spent an additional half hour carrying some more rocks for the top of the bank. Definitely will help to have more rocks. 

Putting the culvert in is the second phase, in my mind, and I will try to start on it next Wednesday. I don’t think the bank is high enough yet at the south quarry gap, but there is enough dirt there now that the priority should shift to getting the fill/drain “culvert” installed in the north quarry gap. To function like a stand pipe for draining, and an inlet pipe during floods. At both times, it will be important to prevent erosion of the banks. Thus a couple feet of dirt above the culvert pipe. Am thinking an 8″ x 20 ft. piece of ABS plastic pipe.

Phase 3: Once the pipe is installed, and buried in the bank with a foot or two of quarry dirt, I can return to the south quarry gap area, and build up the bank another foot or so. And widen the bank, also. I’m hoping the pipe will help to maintain a foot or so more water in the quarry throughout the year. 

Laid a piece of 2 x 6 across the mud, where the path should probably go. Not necessary once the mud has time to dry up a bit more. Pretty sticky there today. 

October 15

Was pleased to get 15 ft. of the culvert pipe well bedded, and level. The dip in the north gap is well filled now. Covered just 10 ft. of the pipe so far, and only a little, but it looks better. Need to get another foot or more of dirt over the pipe, to keep it in place long term. But for now, the bank is 12–14 inches above the pipe inlet/outlet, so there should be much less erosion in the event of a small flood. The more dirt the better, so I’ll keep shoveling. 

The “grand canyon” is getting pretty big, but should disappear after the first big rain. Looks a bit of a construction site now. Trees and grass on the bank will be a big help holding it together, and improving the look. There’s a lot of vegetation in the dirt I’m moving. Should green up in the spring. I forgot to bring along my bug spray yesterday, but didn’t have a single bug bite during the day.

October 18

Water level was higher, but only up 2 inches from the little bit of rain. Was 19 inches from water to inlet of pipe on Monday. Today it is only 17 inches from the creek water to the bottom of the pipe. If the creek rises by 18 inches from today’s level, we’ll start filling the quarry! And if the creek rises 32″ from today’s level, it will overflow the bank and fill the quarry faster. Let’s hope for a 20″ rise in the creek level, sometime in January, and a slow and steady rise in the quarry level. 

I arrived at about 12:45, and left around 16:15 hrs. Got the pipe almost covered, and that was all I wanted to accomplish today. Enough dirt over it that it looks better, and hopefully won’t wash away on us. Leveling as I went. Could see that the water in the center of the quarry was slightly larger. And the dirt I’m taking from the “grand canyon” was a little wetter also. This is a stopping point, kind of. Stopping shoveling, anyhow. I need to bring up the cable puller, chains, and recovery straps, and move a few big rocks onto the banks at the south and north quarry gaps and in between. Once I build the banks up a bit more with large rocks, I will go back to shoveling. But I’ve a lot of work coming when I’m moving rocks, in the next session.

Last part of this job is just to raise the banks a foot or two more with dirt from the grand canyon. Will get it done by the end of the year, it it stays this dry! Won’t keep the floods from overflowing the banks, but the culvert pipe should help maintain a water level in the quarry and hopefully reduce some of the erosion. There are clumps of flood grass in the tree branches, 3 feet above the level of the banks at the north and south gaps.

November 1

Was quite nice down by the quarry today, shoveling. Bright sun and only a little breeze. I got about 4 hours in, and now have the south and north gaps adequately supported with dirt from the “grand canyon”. Not worried so much about them washing away. Or the culvert. Looks pretty good now. 

The creek water was up today, but still about 12″ below the pipe inlet. I looked in the pipe, and it was dry. The grand canyon was full up to the lip, but it didn’t stop me from digging the dirt from there. Sloppy walking though, for sure. Could see that the grand canyon water was more than a foot below the level of the creek water. And the water out in the center of the quarry was 2″ below the grand canyon water. 

While I’m happy to have the quarry water level be low at this point, when I’m finished building up the banks (Christmas?) I can set up a siphon and begin raising the water level in the quarry a bit that way.  Good to siphon in creek water when the creek is carrying less silt and stuff. A day or two after a big rain would be better. Want to build the banks up a bit more north of the north quarry gap. It is the first point where water will go over the bank now…and the dirt is free. Not fun to move, but good exercise!

November 5

I started shoveling dirt up onto the bank at the north gap. Was thinking I’d just build up to the north of the north gap, but have been thinking about the path there. To get it flat and welcoming to someone hiking around the quarry, it should be level, and at least 3 feet wide. So I just built up the bank some more with that goal in mind, higher than the rocks, and relatively flat as the south gap part. I’d say that the condition of the bank is stabilized, but “not complete”. Will keep building the bank up as time allows, to level the path there.

November 9

Didn’t quite get the corner filled. Ran out of daylight. Really want to get the path across the top of the bank finished, so it is a pleasant walk all the way around the quarry. Will figure out a rope for a handrail, attached to the trees, as it is an uneven path still, and a drop on both sides, particularly the creek side. I’d like to move a big rock onto the north side of the gaps, to support the dirt better. Have moved the easy ones, so will have to be a little more ambitious about the next rock. I will sleep well tonight.