Listen and you shall hear

20170125_172422Water overflows in lower levels of the floodplain. Cranberry Run bubbles through the preserve, still held within its banks on its way to the Riley. There is a smattering of rain today but strong winds wipe away most of the drops before they make landfall.

That wind is gusting and swirling so that it’s difficult to say whether it’s blowing east of west, but the temperature is predicted to fall from the unusual balminess that’s been hereabouts this January. A hike is more of a slog right now and muddy boots and shoes are piled beside the front door. I saw a woman running last weekend, wearing just a sports bra and shorts as she clipped along, a site for July, not midwinter in Northwest Ohio.

The goats went all month without their coats. S’more shucked his after a week, but Mister Bill likes his fluorescent orange vest and kept it on until three days above freezing saw his tossed to the mud, too.

When the weather turns, they are quiet in their disgruntlement. Donkeys Buddy and Lucy are more vocal, hinnying plaintively. If that pitiful sound falls on deaf ears, they bawl and snort until apples are proffered. With mouths full and juice dripping from their chins, they snicker and quiet.

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Queen B holds court

Not so for the pigs. Rather, there is no common vocalization for all of the pigs that live here. Although the conversation usually has something to do with food, we know exactly who is sounding off.

Beatrice is the queen. She is usually very quiet since she doesn’t need to speak in order to be obeyed. She prefers to voice her opinion physically by pushing her way through or smacking on the front door. If that doesn’t get the required response, she bellows an alto “wahhhhhhhhhhhr-huh” until a) the door opens and she gets to come in or b) she is told to go to an outbuilding and she says something that I can’t repeat, even in porcine.

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Bob and Alphonse

Bob Barker barks, or he used to. Since his arrival a few years ago, the toothy boar has mellowed. These days, he humphs softly while being stoked across the bridge of his nose. When irritated, he mutters “MEEeuuurf” with a head shake.

Alphonse arrived at the same time as Bob, from the same horrific circumstance. He shrieked then and he shrieks now, just not as frequently. We believe that the trauma of early abuse left him emotionally unbalanced.

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Carlton

Carlton is a whiner. When he was younger and smaller, he could hop up on any bed in the house. Now his pot-belly is much rounder and closer to the ground. A repetitive “eeeee-rrr hmf hmf hmf” translates “It’s too cold/my feet are wet/she’s/he’s/it’s looking at/touching me.”

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Nemo and her friend Larry

Nemo is big; still a baby, but big. Her gestures are large and much of her communications are physical. For instance, I wear a jacket with an elastic drawstring. She draws back that drawstring with her teeth and releasese it to snap me in the thigh. At first, I thought this was an accident, until it happened every morning that I wore the coat.

Nemo’s voice is big, too. Her gutteral “whaaa” builds to a full-on roar when she’s hungry, which is most of the time. It takes a lot of food to maintain all that beauty. She and Carlton are friends. When Nemo eats, Carlton is usually close by, quietly snuffling up the leftovers. This is one reason why he can no longer jump.

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Sophie

Nemo may be the largest pig, but she is intimidated by the smallest. Sophie is currently petite, but was 40 pounds overweight when she came here. Walking was difficult for her and no veterinarian would spay her until she lost at least 40 pounds. We put her on a diet, one that did not include the daily bag of cookies to which she was accustomed. She never forgot that she once had cookies, though, and whistles a high-pitched soprano that builds to a kind of “hu-EE hu-EEEEE” until her breakfast is served.

Sometimes, everyone gets a cookie, even if they don’t all say “please” in the same way. We are enriched by their teachings. That’s thanks enough.

 

Winter 2017 News

winter-2017-newsletter-1Download the Winter 2017 newsletter by clicking on the cover on the left.

There are two big walks–one to count birds for the international effort and a winter walk under a sky full of stars. Hope to see you in the Seitz Family Pavilion before each program.

The bridge to a bridge

IMG_1434This was Wednesday’s view looking west across the footbridge from the preserve-side of Cranberry Run. The photo wasn’t taken Wednesday, but Antioch College Intern Emma snapped it a couple of weeks ago. Since it was dry as a bone from before that point until Wednesday night, the photo could have been taken three days ago.

A fox squirrel probably lifted the pine cone between then and then, but you get the picture.

Historic records and reminiscences indicate that Cranberry Run, known affectionately in these parts as the Little Cranberry, was a trickle narrow enough for a skip and a jump to cross. The rush of water, sped via human ingenuity north through the Allen County and the southeast corner of Putnam, has accelerated the bankfull width to a current 10 to 15 feet as it falls to Riley Creek.

That’s a little more than a hop to cross. The first Cranberry Run footbridge (in my memory) stretched from the west to a landbridge between the stone quarry and the Run. After channelization in the 1980s, before the Army Corps theoreticized and modeled this ineffectual practice away to leave a native waterway to do what native waterways do best, another bridge was built at a bend 100 yards south. When that gave way, the most recent bridge was engineered downstream again.

IMG_1481This footbridge spans the little creek about 1/8 of a mile upstream of the confluence with the Riley, itself a tributary to the Blanchard River. The structure was built nearly a decade ago and was designed to allow floodwaters to pass through widely-spaced slats. Each end was boxed around trees on opposite banks. Chains were attached to the telephone pole bases, buried and stretched to anchor to other trees.

The bridge held fast until last year when the weathering effects of floodplain fills and heavy windfall from the 2012 derecho carved away enough bank that the anchor trees caved. In 2015, volunteer David Seitz winched and wrangled the structure back into shape, but he knew this was a stop-gap. Sure enough, Wednesday’s 3 to 4 inches of fast, hard rainfall swelled the stream into a fast-moving lake. This morning, I parted the black raspberries along the path and saw that the bridge now angles northwest to southeast rather than due east.IMG_1487

“Am needing a ride this PM,” said David after he saw the photos. He tells me that moving it to another location will probably require disassembly and rebuilding, as well as a lift. Yet, “Possible,” is how he signed off.
Sounds promising to me. Anything is, after all.
Any takers?

Photos by Emma, Album #4

The Quarry Farm’s Spring 2016 intern has been working with us for seven solid weeks now. Last week, I suggested that she might like a nice t-shirt with honeysuckle leaves imprinted across the front. Her response was to fall forward on the ground and curl her dancer-like frame into a fetal position.

But Emma has made a break in the invasive’s hold on the forest of The Quarry Farm. She’s shed her long sleeves in favor of cool Ts as the temperatures rose from the 30s to today’s high 80s, so she no longer has to roll up her sleeves to pull bush honeysuckle seedlings. The exposed skin has made her more vulnerable to insects and an overprotective goose, but this Antioch College first-year has accepted the challenge.

Along the way, she’s taken a few photos. You’ll already know that, though, if you’ve been following along. Here is the latest album.

Flowing back in time through two townships

Quarry and CreekThere’s a lot of history in and around The Quarry Farm, not to mention up the road.

On the opposite side of the block stands a log home constructed by Tom McCullough. Like our Red Fox Cabin, McCullough’s place isn’t a Putnam County native, but did stand in the United States during the country’s first 100 years. The 2.5-story building started out in Reading, Pennsylvania, was relocated here in 2008 and reconstructed by a professional antique cabin firm and kitted out with local 19th century furniture.

Bridenbaugh OrganistNorth on the same road and across Riley Creek is Bridenbaugh Schoolhouse. Imagine a one-room schoolhouse on every country mile and you will picture the education system as it once was in rural Ohio. In 1997, Dale Bridenbaugh restored the schoolhouse on his farm to what could have been its original 1889 glory.Peggy Bridenbaugh

RC with signCross the Riley on the c. 1876 M-6 bridge, itself listed in the Historic American Engineer Record as an example of “Morrison’s Patent Wrought Iron Arch Truss Bridge,” travel about a mile and a half north on 7L and sit in the stillness and peace of Riley Creek United Methodist Church. The church was founded in 1850 and is still active in one large, lofted room. Sun and moonlight filter through etched and stain-glass windows to pool on handmade wooden pews. The long upright-backed benches glow with the hand polish and years of congregational sitting, but the names of former youth break the smooth surfaces here and there.

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Cabin MomSaturday broke records for December warmth and, although we could use some rain or snow to soften the dry bed of the quarry, the weather was perfect for the first Old Time Riley Creek Christmas Tour. All of the above were stops on the route. All were decorated for the holidays, most as they may have been long ago. Riley and Pleasant Township saw plenty of driving tourists as a result. One of the visitors was Pandora’s Dr. Darrell Garmon. He walked up the path through the Red Fox Cabin gardens and introduced himself as Dr. Garmon and as the person who poses as Sea Captain James Riley.

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Fox StatueNext door, Carlton, Beatrice and the other potbellies, a speckling of chickens and Johnny Goose gathered at the farm animal sanctuary fence corner closest to the hubbub. Lucy’s foghorn bray paused more than one conversation. Two tourists left the cabin and stopped at the gate where the turkeys were on full display. Buddy took issue with the attention the boys were getting, so he grabbed a mouthful of tail feathers, spit them out and smiled. True story – the couple took a photo and promised to share it with us.

For now, the images above will do.

Days of flowers and fungi, part 2

On Tuesday afternoon, I walked up the drive to find the geese swimming in the backyard, delightedly dunking themselves in the water as they swam in wide circles. After sunset, Blanchard’s cricket frog and bullfrog calls bounced off the second floor windows. Fireflies flickered over the water, their reflections doubling their numbers.

It was beautiful. The trouble is, we don’t have a pond on the farm animal sanctuary.

What does flow through the Quarry Farm, through the nature preserve, is Cranberry Run, a fairly narrow tributary to Riley Creek which in turn empties into the Blanchard River. From June 12 to June 15, the local Weather Guy reported 3.34 inches of rain, much of it all at once. Beyond that, the National Weather Service has noted 2 more inches around these parts. In a nutshell, for about a day and a half, most of the Quarry Farm became one with the old stone quarry.

Tiny mothOvernight, the waters receded into the stream banks and the quarry itself. The geese splashed in the floodplain puddles. Donkeys, goats and potbellies were a whole lot happier than the day before with their full salad bar reopened.

The creek itself is brown with runoff from open fields to the south. Given a few days, the preserve trees and grasses will do their work and filter the creek to a clear flow again. Everything is green and lush above the water line, with various mosses growing on the water-soaked deadfall and logs from the the 2012 derecho, a fungi forest in the making. Seems like a good time to play catch-up and post part two of forage expert Tammy Spillis’ spring visit.

Fungus Amongus

In addition to snake root, rue, wake robin, ginger and other wild flowerings of both the native and nonnative sort, the trail walkers who turned out on May 2 found several types of fungi on the Quarry Farm.

Thorny locusts line the path on the northeast rim of the quarry wetland. Their four-inch-long-and-counting barbs were used by women to hold their shawls together, said Spillis. What wasn’t their on Saturday were a shelf mushroom host-specific to the trees.

In the floodplain south of the quarry sits an oxbow of Cranberry Run. Or it once was part of the stream until it was cut-off in the 1950s in a mad dash to engineer every minor waterway in Northwest Ohio. Since that time, the “cut-off” and it the running creek have been working their way back to each other. Until the time that they do rejoin, the oxbow is a deep wetland that is home to fairy shrimp, a variety of amphibians, brooding wood ducks and fungi.

Irene and TammyThe first we found was a little brown mushroom, one that requires a thorough handwashing if held with bare hands. “Little brown mushroom — leave it alone,” made it into my journal.

Then a cluster of pheasant back mushrooms, a beautiful edible, grew alongside mosses on a decaying log. It was marked with a feathery pattern of browns, exactly as its name implies. Another brilliant-skinned namesake, a leopard frog, hopped across the path as Tammy bent to take a sample.

Whether wild or storebought, Tammy told us that we derive the most benefit from mushrooms that are cooked. “The outside persists because of the protein keratin. All the nutrients, Vitamin B and Pheasant's Tailothers are held within those cellular structures. So when you cook them, you release them. The only benefit you get from raw mushrooms is water and Vitamin C.”

Then there’s the risk that wild mushrooms, when eaten raw, can carry delightful little parasites onto the plate. Tammy said a little wild mustard or something in the horseradish family can dissolve the outside layer on the parasite, if you just have to have your fungus served raw.

She added that cooked mushrooms have tremendous power in fighting tumors. “Your body says, ‘A mushroom just went through me. This mushroom is normally hard, and it has this protein thing.’ And then your body starts attacking other things that are similar to that, stimulating an immune response.

Inky capsThe last fungus we met was a bed of little gray-brown caps held by black stems. These “inkies” were used to make ink during Thomas Jefferson’s day.

On the return route we learned that, should we run out of water in late summer, plenty of thick, tangled wild grape vine ropes fresh water through the trees and across the paths. Tammy showed us how to wrap a plastic bag around a nicked vine so that it will fill with sweet, clear water.

“Always leave a grape vine in your woods in case your well goes dry,” was her advice. Sounds like a lovely sentiment to weave into a tapestry. I see a workshop in the future.

Summer is underway, and with it comes a newsletter

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Hot off the printer, as well as an upload, is The Quarry Farm 2014 Summer Newsletter. Lots to talk about, like the fact that The Quarry Farm Nature Preserve & Conservation Farm is a 501(c)3 public charity, and plenty of things coming up. Click on the cover at left, open and read away.

Hope you are able to jump in on the calendar and see for yourself.