Published in The Delaware Gazette: November, 2013
To my eyes the fall colors on either side of the winding lane leading to Stratford Ecological Center on Liberty Road have never looked more beautiful. The leaves are mostly yellow and orange with the odd red Viburnum much more visible since the removal of the invasive honeysuckle. We cannot call this warm and relatively windless weather an Indian summer, as it did not follow any hard frosts, but it seems to have helped the leaves last a lot longer this year.
The oats and alfalfa in the first field continue to flourish. The orchard grass, planted to temper the rich alfalfa, did not establish and will be replanted while the oats still stand. Once the oats die back after the temperature drops, they will become mulch for the new seed. Should we plant after the ground and oats are frozen, the seeds will find their way into the soil as it opens up from winter’s freezing and thawing.
The spelt is up in the north half of field 2 and west half of field 5, with only a couple of bare spots, possibly because of uneven ground or birds filling up on the seed. The corn is ready for harvest. It is most common to harvest two ears per plant but seed variety, weather and soil conditions affect the individual plant’s ability to produce. The best weather conditions provide a longer pollination period for the ear bud. Infertile soil encourages more, yet smaller ears, in an effort to ensure survival.
The cattle, sheep, goats and llamas grazed last week in fields 6 & 7 between the pond lane and the sugar shack. We allowed them access to both fields as the grass was limited in field 6 and it contains a water trough, and supplemented with hay. This situation led to some interesting incidents including: uncomfortably close encounters with the school children when the animals thought we were there to feed them; a “hay day” for the cattle after breaking through the two-wire electric fence into the corn, resulting in undigested corn kernels being excreted for days; and finally THE RING.
Whilst vigorously spreading hay on a rainy day our new high school intern, Abby Fullen, managed to fling her sterling silver, black sapphire ring along with the hay. The ring was a 16th birthday present from her Mom, and she was upset when she could not find it. This week Abby and her mother returned with a metal detector! After fifteen minutes it registered a reading, and they started digging under the grass. Abby stopped short as she saw a glint, and triumphantly discovered the ring buried two inches deep by an unsuspecting hoof.
The Tuesday volunteers found it a strenuous process to strip the bark off the locus logs, used recently to replace some of the fence posts in the barn yard. All the boards were replaced with a brand of metal fence called “RedBrand.” The top strand is red, and the square wire mesh holes are “hoof-proof,” too small for an animal to stand on. The mesh looks good and provides high visibility. It will keep the young stock in during the spring and slow down the hungry predators during the winter. A welcome addition on the south side is a small gate, which offers a short cut when walking from the sugar shack to the barn.
The orchard hens have been relocated to the children’s garden and joined the younger ones. Emily and Mary, our fall education interns, had the dubious pleasure of cleaning out the hen house after the hens left and before the girls say goodbye for the season. After reducing the number of roosters we accepted an offer from April Hoy, Stratford’s Education Coordinator, of a Speckled Sussex rooster. He offers the opportunity to see yet another variety of bird, and his emerald green wing plumage and white speckled tail make for a very handsome bird.
The greenhouse has almost been turned over entirely to cold hardy crops now that 18 flats of seedlings, plus direct seeding, have been successfully planted. There are still tomatoes, peppers, okras and egg plants available for u-pick. As usual it is always a delight to step into the greenhouse and feel the warmth, and see the various heights, textures and colors. Stratford is open to all on Saturdays 9 am.-1pm. through November, and Monday through Friday 9 am-5 pm. every week, except holidays.
Pauline Scott is a farm and nature guide at Stratford Ecological Center, 3083 Liberty Road, Delaware, Ohio, 43015, Tel. 740 363 2548. Email StratfordCenter@aol.com or visit our web site at StratfordEcologicalCenter.org