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Adams County Morning

Thursday, October 7, 2010

 I traveled over to Adams County, in the heart of Amish Country, to give a talk to the board of the Ohio Nature Conservancy on October 1. TNC is planning an ambitious project to build a land bridge between the Edge of Appalachia preserve and Shawnee State Forest. This is the heart of cerulean warbler country. There could not be a better time to acquire and preserve mature mesic deciduous forest in the stronghold of the cerulean warbler's range. I'm so excited about this acquisition project, which is proceeding without delay. Just look at these hills, cloaked in oaks and hickories, at the mist rolling up from the hayfields.

 I spoke to the board about all the threats facing cerulean warblers and other Neotropical migrant songbirds: mountaintop removal mining primary among them. And it was a balm, the next morning, to drive out and through the best remaining cerulean warbler habitat going. Ceruleans sing so persistently and abundantly in Shawnee State Forest that when I was there three springs ago we were laughing and calling them "trash birds," these endangered little scraps of blue.

 We were making a long caravan, snaking through the Blue Creek valley south of Peebles, Ohio, when I saw a deliquescing tobacco barn that begged to be photographed. I stopped, and the caravan went on without me.

 But I had an ace in the hole: my old Facebook friend and brand new flesh and blood (I like to say corporeal) friend, Tricia West. Tricia grew up on a tobacco farm near here. That's why we decided to have our photo made in front of skeins of drying tobacco.

We decided to turn this unfortunate event (being separated from the TNC field trip) into an expotition. And we did. We wound through the valleys and found Sunshine Ridge Road, for which TNC's "Sunshine Corridor" project is named, and we marveled at the fabulous habitat all around us.  It was so exciting to know it would be preserved forever.

 Tricia pointed out the tobacco barns, airy structures made for drying wet tobacco that's hung from the rafters. The long dark line on the left of this barn is tobacco, drying under black plastic in the field. It's then taken and hung up in the barn. Tricia said each plant gets handled a lot between planting and the final stripping of the leaves from the stem.

You can just see the warm brown tobacco between the cracks in the siding. I love knowing these seemingly decaying barns are active, working structures. I also love thinking there might be barn owls in some of them. Tricia said she grew up with white owls screaming in the rafters of her barn, and didn't think anything of it. Well, she said sometimes they scared the bejabbers out of her, but...Now that she's a birder, she knows how incredible that is. You can count the remaining pairs of barn owls in Ohio on one hand. And it's all because barns like these are falling down and being replaced by metal pole barns, tight as a drum, with no way for any ghost owls to make their way inside.

 This grand old house belongs to some of Tricia's relatives. I was seared with the feeling that, but for chance, this could have been my family's house, too. I wondered how it felt to drive by, recognizing a house like this from your childhood. I yearned to have memories here, too, but mine were only made today.

 The house is in beautiful repair, not a single detail anachronistic or jarring. So beautiful.

 And right next door, the little store owned by her family. How I would love to make this a studio, not change a detail. Well, maybe drown it in flowers, put a Boston terrier on the front porch. That's all.

Tricia called this the greenhouse. Green it was, with a  huge black walnut dropping alarums on its roof.

 Too soon, it was time to leave, and I raced for Whipple, snapping photos out the car window. There are so many cemeteries in Amish country. All of them lovely.

I don't know why I like this photo so much, taken as it was from my car window. I liked the laundry flapping on the line, and tried to snap it, but the G-ll was sluggish and I got a sugar maple in the way. And it was perfect.

 A lonely field, more black walnuts having taken off their summer dresses, standing naked before the winter.

 A barn, being taken over by trees.

 As so very many are. I love the ruins, but I love more to see a barn doing its job. A trip to Amish country reminds me that somewhere, there are barns that aren't slated for demolition, barns that contribute and are appreciated.

Hackleshin Road, a nice name for someone who likes raptors. And before I knew it, I was home, a wonderful adventure behind me. I want to come back and see the Sunshine Corridor grow and grow! Thank you, Ohio Nature Conservancy, for this gift to the planet. 


I heart Tricia. And Adams County.
And I heart the Nature Conservancy. A land bridge...fantastic.

I love this post and the photographs it contains. Thanks for sharing.
Lynda in Michigan

Where else could barn owls set up pellet production? Is there an alternative for them? Thank you for a post that I can just about smell. Even without porch terriers.

Julie, you captured a wonderful day, with your camera and your words. Thank you.

Love this post, it's nice to see Admas County through someone else's eyes.

Just beautiful, dear JZ. Makes me grieve for my three story barn which I just couldn't afford to save...But lovely story and photos of that special place.
Did you meet my pal from TNC who is what I call le grande monsieur of The Edge, Peter Whan?XXOOM.

Posted by Anonymous October 7, 2010 at 2:49 PM

We grow a little patch of tobacco in the village where I work (at The Henry Ford), but the taxes are so awful on it, the crop gets destroyed at the end of every year! Not that I am in favor of selling tobacco...

Thank you Julie...just beautiful. Lovely to know someone appreciates my native habitat as much as I do.

Hi, Julie. I was just reading Jonathan Franzen's 'Freedom' where a West Virginian habitat for cerulean warblers plays a major plot role. In trying to find out how realistic the story's plan for reclamation of a blasted mountaintop was, I found your blog! What a great blog! I know Bill from college. It's a small world!
PS If you have read the book, I'd be interested in your take on the environmental damage it presents.

Pete was there, Mimi! He's great.
Roberta, I'd know you-- from old photos of Bill's from the Mr. Happy Fan Club. Didn't you post an early Bill shot with pink azaleas recently? Thanks for that--wish I'd known him then!

The address below will take you to a recent article in the Columbus Dispatch regarding barn owls and other owls in the Amish Country. It's by John Switzer. It is a little encouraging.

Cheryl Whipple, Oak Harbor, OH

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