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

2014 Summer Newsletter.indd

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.

Signs

I woke up this morning with this in my head:

[In Just-]
by e.e. cummings

in Just-
spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman

whistles far and wee

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it’s
spring

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old balloonman whistles
far and wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and

it’s
spring
and
the

goat-footed

balloonMan whistles
far
and
wee

I have a passion for poetry and cummings is one of my favorite artists. Inevitably, this particular piece of work comes to mind at some point in March. While not the first sign of Spring, it is a significant one for me. Still, you needn’t look to the page, or even delve into the convolutions of my sleep-addled mind to find the artistry of onrushing Spring.

Fox Squirrel Geese CabinOf late I’ve seen the return of turkey vultures and red-winged blackbirds and American robins in arguing masses so large that they’ve painted an acre of the big back field nearly white with their droppings. I’ve heard the buzz of a woodcock and the whickering of its wings as it flew toward the moon to prove its worth to a potential mate. Skunks and ‘coons and squirrels quarrel and fight in the woods and Canada geese and mallard ducks, in flocks and individual pairs, holler from the quarry.

Fairy Shrimp CircleTracksIn the lowest lying areas of The Quarry Farm, back in the woods and well below the quarry itself, on the ground referred to by locals as Coburn’s Bottom, vernal pools have already formed. These temporary ponds serve as habitat for a host of ephemeral animals: fairy shrimp and salamanders and mayfly nymphs and dragonflies. Within a few months, the pools will have evaporated, but their inhabitants remain in burrows underground or as eggs, tiny packets of a potential future.

MossAnd then there’s the greening of the woods, with mosses already climbing up the trees and laying soft blankets on the ground. It’s easy to forget that this whole area was once rainforest. It’s easy to forget, that is, until you take the time to walk into an Ohio woods and take an honest look around. And if it’s not a matter of forgetting – if, in fact, you didn’t know – then the realization of where you are is an epiphany and you’ll never look at a stand of trees in Northwest Ohio in quite the same way again.

(e.e. cumming’s [in Just-] was originally published in The Dial, Volume LXVIII, Number 5: May, 1920)

A New Year’s Celebration

Lolly 3Although we didn’t celebrate a white Christmas on The Quarry Farm, when the snow finally did come, it failed to disappoint. In the last week we’ve received the better part of eight inches and it has transformed the area into a winter scene that would make even Currier & Ives jealous. For Lolly, a recent addition to the farm made possible by the good people at The Humane Society of Allen County, it was also her introduction to the wild part of The Quarry Farm.

We could try to paint a picture for you with words, talk about the stark contrast of the trees against the snow, the blue of the sky, Lolly’s exuberance as she bounded across the back field, but I’d inevitably fall short. So I’ll not even try. Instead, we’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Happy New Year, everybody.

Name that Bird

There were undoubtedly many photos taken of this morning’s glorious sunrise over Northwest Ohio. I have seen a few already. However, none can compare to the west-to-east view of the Quarry Farm above the oxbow wetland. That’s the cut-off for those of you who are old friends and frequent wild raspberry scavengers.

November 19, 2012, from a vantage point west of the sun and east of the moon

Can you guess which silhouette is not like the other? Here are a couple of close-ups to assist.

Closer and closest

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.