Giving thanks trailside

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A mossy find

Qarie Marshall offered a sunny weather radio forecast for Thursday—“Turkey Day.” I’m counting on Aunt Paula’s cheesecake and Mom’s mashed red potatoes, with the ruby skins liberally integrated.

Every day is Turkey Day here. Max the Bronze is the current guardian of the farm animal sanctuary flock. Visitors have frequently lost the contents of their pockets to bronze Buttercup. Their wild relatives sway in summer night breeze, perched high in tree tops like giant fruit. They chortle and murmur in the daytime, hidden from predatory eyes in the thickest thickets. A stray feather occasionally makes its way into the Putnam County Master Gardeners’ pollinator patch.

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Cool hat…missing boots

Saturday, we stretched our legs in thanks for a late morning hike. Elisha broke in a new pair of Trespass boots shipped from the UK. His mom Esther shared her lovely Irish accent and details about the clothing line, including the fact that Trespass makes water-resistant onesies.

Type ‘Ohio’ into the company website’s ‘Find a Store’ widget and you get Galway (eh…only 3,426.94 miles away.) Still, the “No Child Left Inside” movement would benefit from a line of puddle-jumping ware.

So, apparently, would my child. Home on holiday, she took off her rubber knee boots (“They’ll get wet, Mom”) to wade in the chilly quarry wetland with a seine in hand. She caught a sample of snails, a beetle and a fingernail clam for us to see. The clam was the size of the second smallest hiker’s pinkie finger. 20181117_112005

The smallest hiker of all slept through the walk, swaddled in his mother’s walking fleece.20181117_105059

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Fungi suspended over autumn leaves

The sun brought out the color in what leaves still hung on the trees. We used honeysuckle walking sticks to traverse downed leaf matter. We gathered a few Osage oranges before the ghosts of mammoths could lay claim to them. I thought I saw a shrike in the back 10 acres. Maybe we’ll see his/her larder—voles impaled on hawthorn spikes—during the 2019 Great Backyard Bird Count.

We saw tracks. They crossed our path in wallows and licks and fur clinging to branches. There were hoof marks, short and long bird toe prints and thin drag lines. The turkeys left the latter two for us to find, surely watching us from a distance that would keep them whole beyond Thursday’s feast.

Another Hour On a Different Day

Seven months ago, I took an hour and wandered through the wild part of The Quarry Farm taking pictures. It was June then and the temperature beneath the green overhang of the woods was pushing 90 degrees. All manner of birds and insects were buzzing, chirping and flitting about and the sky was clear and blue.

Today was a little different.

While there was blue sky to be seen, it was through ragged patches in the cloud cover. There were birds, as well, but they moved about only as needed, making quick trips from the tall grass below our house to the feeders hanging from the cherry tree off our north deck. The temperature was in the middle teens with a wind chill of negative one.

Like I said, different.

Wild TurkeysEven so, there was a lot to see. It all started with Anne exclaiming about turkeys. The Ohio Department of Natural Resource’s Division of Wildlife released about half a dozen near here some ten years ago. Over that decade, they’ve flourished. We’ve seen flocks of more than a dozen moving through the brush below our house and on the other side of Cranberry Run. Today, there were four of them as close to the house as I’ve seen them. In all likelihood, they were eating the seed that had fallen from the feeders.

LollyLolly, an American Bulldog mix that we adopted from the Allen County Humane Society shortly before Christmas, joined me on the trek, ranging ahead of me, then back, sniffing at everything and exploring every nook and crannyTurkey's Demise that caught her eye. To the east of the quarry, she brought to my attention a former member of the flock of turkeys that had passed through our yard earlier in the day. It had been there for some time and there was no sign of the cause of its fate. There are any number of predators that could have killed the bird: foxes, hawks, eagles, raccoons, the occasional coyote or dog and, of course, us. Humans.

Trees in WinterThe trees that are filling in the wooded area of the property are mostly sugar maples, though there are plenty of honey locusts, walnuts, sycamores and buckeyes, as well. In the summer, their leaves shade the ground below and, at least psychologically, provide some relief from the heat. In the winter, their branches scrape at the sky, catch at the clouds and capture a weak winter sun. The visuals are stark, these dark branches against the fleeting gaps of blue where the clouds are torn apart by the wind. It’s clear why winter trees, stripped of their softening leaves, are often described as skeletal. Even so, it’s beautiful, this contrast of dark on light, darkest brown on blue.

The big back field, over eleven acres of grass grown rampant and thorny brush, is brownTeasel and dry and bitterly cold. There are constant rustlings in the dead undergrowth: possibly the wanderings of mice, voles or field rats. More likely, though, these sounds are the scraping of dried plant against dried plant, pushed together by the wind. Most common in this field of brown are the spiky heads of teasel. They rise up above the dead grass in clusters of two or five or seven or more.

I’ve managed to photograph quite a bit, though possibly more interesting are the things that I’ve failed to capture. Like the pair of bald eagles that rose up out of the southern part of The Quarry Farm and looped over my head while I stood in the back field, hand in pockets against the cold, camera in its bag. By the time I got it out, the camera, they had soared the better part of a mile away to the east. Or the four white-tailed deer that Lolly scared up. All I saw of them were their flashing tails as they bounded leisurely away from Lolly’s spirited chase.

The CabinBy the time all of this has happened, the wind has found both Lolly and me. My hands and face are numb and slow to respond. Even Lolly’s had enough, leading me back to the path that will take us back to the house. I would say “home”, but we are already there. Even here, in the cold.

After all, every bit of it, every twig and branch and frozen patch of ground, is The Quarry Farm.

Buddy and Jeff