Rain Revives Crops at Stratford Ecological CenterAugust 4, 2012
Stratford in the FallOctober 20, 2012
Published in The Delaware Gazette September 15 , 2012
This month’s article on farm life at Stratford Ecological Center on Liberty Road is a couple of weeks later than usual, due to my being on vacation in my native England. The Delaware Gazette Editors expressed they would actually prefer the third Saturday of the month for publication, as there is more space available, so I’ll look forward to visiting with you just a little later each month.
Using the excuse of recovering from jet lag, my husband and I spent our first night in England in an airy room at an old fashioned country pub, deep in the great hill walking area of north Derbyshire. From our second floor window we could see and hear the occasional horses being ridden along the road, a traditional and heartwarming sight and something so rarely seen in Ohio. There was only time for a short stroll before dinner, but the towering hills, vibrant trees, colorful flowers and friendly beef cattle were a balm after delays stretched our traveling time to twenty-one hours.
The next day we joined friends on their farm in the plains, closer to the city of York, for the marriage of their daughter. On our second day there, the eve of the wedding, there was plenty to do including a look at the new sheep barn, built with family labor, and separating two fat lambs from a small flock of ewes.
The trailer was parked strategically in the field and four of us set off to herd the sheep towards it. We knew if the sheep broke through our cordon, even once, it would be very time consuming to dissuade them doing it again. So with great determination we stretched our arms out wide, made encouraging loud noises and advanced. Ewes are big close up and these ewes looked like they were ready to charge. Fortunately, for whatever reason, they all suddenly turned and crowded into the trailer. It only took a bit of manhandling by the young son to lift the ewes back into the field, and then we drove off to another pasture with the lambs. Evidently, wedding or no wedding, farm life must continue, and yes, the wedding was an absolutely wonderful happy occasion.
As I predicted life on Stratford’s farm did not slow down after farm camp. The farm family’s young teenage son and daughter worked hard. The son began raising Cornish cross broilers for their meat in late spring. They were housed in the empty hen house in the children’s garden. Usually these birds eat so much they become immobile due to their heavy breasts, but not these birds.
Every morning they were pushed out of the house and withheld feed in order to encourage them to move around and browse. This slowed down their growth, but made for a muscular bird. They finished out really well at the beginning of September, with a diversity of weights ranging from six to thirteen pounds. The final profit has yet to be calculated, but the effort made to encourage the birds to graze saved a lot of dollars in grain feed.
The daughter’s efforts followed in her mother’s footsteps. She raised flower seeds in the greenhouse and transplanted them into field #3, as well as direct seeding others into the same area. The mature flowers were gathered and bunched on a Friday, and sold at the Delaware Farmer’s Market on Sandusky Street the next day. Her family is justifiably proud of her and she in turn has added a worthwhile sum to her savings.
It is breeding time again and we have brought, through the assistance of board member, Sylvia Zimmerman, a young Jersey bull belonging to John Van Gundy, to mate with our cows. Sugar, our Jersey cow, and Sweet Bessie, a Red Devon and her Devon/Hereford cross daughter Annie, will hopefully become pregnant and calve next spring.
The Tunis ram is being “flushed” in preparation for breeding with the ewes at the end of September. He is fed better quality hay and a mix of spelt and oats, as well as cracked field peas and buckwheat and the hulls of different grains, which are a byproduct of seed cleaning. The multi-colored Boar/Nubien cross buck purchased last November and housed near the education building, has reached the age where he is radiating the familiar strong odor of mature rams. He has to wait until the end of October to breed the does.
The tomatoes have produced a bumper crop, the best in years, and PIN will benefit. Apples are small but plentiful and picking has started in readiness for cider making. It has been a poor year for second cutting of hay, but our supplies are good due to a gift of ten round bales, standing five feet tall. A fork lift positioned them behind the rhubarb in Field #3, where the kids can play on them in Kids World at this year’s Harvest Fair.
It sounds as if the Fair will be more fun than ever. New events include blacksmithing, Native American Tipi and rendezvous activities, soap making, a portable sawmill cutting up our downed wood for fencing, and a Zucchini toss ending in treats for the hogs. The more traditional farm animals, llama walking, fishing, mustangs, wagon rides, cider and apple butter making will still be there. The fair is scheduled for Saturday, September 29 from 10 am–4 pm., with payment on arrival of $6 for adults and $4 for kids 2-12 years old. Just like the wedding, you can feel the joy in the air on the day of the Harvest Fair.
“Farm Connection” is a monthly article connecting city folk to life on the Stratford Ecological Center farm. It is published on the first Saturday of the month on the farm and garden page of The Delaware Gazette.