Published in The Delaware Gazette: August 17, 2013
The good weather continued during the last two weeks of July, except on Saturday, July 27, and that particular rain had some folks worried at Stratford Ecological Center on Liberty Road. It was the day of our “Enchanted Evening” fund raising dinner and dance, to take place on the lawn under a tent. However, the weather forecast was correct, and the sun came out at 3:00 pm. It was too muddy for a horse drawn carriage ride between the fields to the pond, but everything else went off like clockwork and we thank the community for their support. If you missed it this year, plans are already underway for next year’s event.
The spelt was harvested high earlier that week, with a respectable yield of fifty-five bushels per acre. It proved good timing, as the clover and timothy grass was flourishing underneath the spelt, and the goats grazed it before we even baled the cut spelt stalks for straw. There was enough straw to supply our winter bedding needs so we did not make a second pass to cut the stalks again; they will become humus to enrich the soil.
The baler knotting problem was finally diagnosed by our helpful neighbor, Frank DeWitt.
He discovered the bell hook had about 1/8 inch of its end broken off, and would often fail to pick up the string to complete the knot which secures the bale. It cost $187 for a replacement hook as the baler is an older model and parts are not readily available.
Sweet Bessie, our Devon beef cow, gave birth to a daughter during the quiet Sunday hours after the Enchanted Evening. Mother and daughter are doing fine. The strapping, brown calf can just be seen over the grass in field 4, as she ambles over to Bessie for sustenance. The Devon breed is hardy and we don’t worry about leaving them out in the field, especially with three llamas on duty.
We did worry about Honey, our Jersey cow out of Molasses, after she gave birth to a son on August 6 in the same field. The delicate golden calf, with the most striking dark eyes and black lashes, became separated from Honey the next day. Farmer Jeff formed a search party, with all thirty-six 9-12 year old campers stretched out in a long line. He is not usually so anxious, as it is normal for a young calf to become disoriented and even push through an electric fence, but the coyotes had been vocal during the night and he feared for the calf’s safety.
After an exhaustive and unsuccessful search, and as a last ditch effort, Farmer Jeff sent the farm interns out on the gator and a tractor to have a better view. In an area of tall grass, favored by the llamas for relieving themselves, they finally found the calf unharmed. Honey and son were moved to the barn, where she is being milked periodically in the stanchion.
We had a special crew working to remove invasive honeysuckle this year. Spencer Anderson and Brian Kotzley have done an amazing job, pulling out masses of honeysuckle and multi-flora rose AND enjoyed doing it. The interns moved the piles to field 6 for winter bonfires; if left in the woods they would form dense thickets. All went well with the uprooting until mid July, when the yellow jackets hatched in their underground nests. They did not like being so rudely disturbed and Spencer was stung, so the guys quit for the day. The following week they tried again. This time Spencer was chased by a solitary wasp along the trail to the drive and all the way to the education building. The boys have now ceased their work until the fall!
The fun of farm camp, especially Wednesday afternoon water sports, when I wished I could have joined the campers as they sprayed each other with hoses, has come to an end. This week the education interns cleaned up and said their goodbyes as they move on to fresh experiences. The farm interns also left this week for college. All have done a great job and learned more about a working farm.
Our thoughts now turn to finalizing plans for the fall “Messages” program for 5th graders. Last spring the “magic spot” daily exercise proved to be a favorite. To quote a student from the Clintonville Academy: “The great thing about a Magic Spot is that there is no talking, just quiet. For the first time in my life, I have experienced quiet. Real quiet. Being out there in the woods like that has made me realize that sometimes being alone isn’t such a bad thing.”
A September through December program calendar will soon be available. Our annual family orientated Harvest Fair is slated for Saturday, September 28, from 10 – 4. After school starts and you feel like finding your own magic spot, please come out and wander our trails and fields until you find your perfect spot.
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