Published in The Delaware Gazette: September 21, 2013
Life was tranquil at Stratford Ecological Center on Liberty Road on a sunny afternoon earlier this week. The farm and nature tours for young school children start next week, and there will be a flurry of activity as the kids escape from the bus and let off steam by racing each other in the fields. There is much to share with them.
The oat seeds which dropped to the ground in field #1 during haymaking have sprouted and make a nice addition to the alfalfa and orchard grass. The latter will remain in the field for two more seasons. The oats will die off when it freezes, but meanwhile they have kept the soil open for water and air, and held the weeds down.
Field #1 is good for finding stones on the surface. The students are always willing to help Farmer Jeff and protect his machinery by moving the rocks to the edge of the woods.
The short, weed-free rows of tomatoes and peppers, planted beyond the giving garden, and the asparagus in field #3 are finally ripening. The produce is available for u-pick, and supplements the fresh vegetables available for distribution by People in Need. If the weather holds, anyone who visits can experience the pleasure of a sunwarmed tomato in their palm.
The rows of zinnias grown for sale at the farmer’s market remain colorful, but the semi-tall sunflowers are bland and withered-looking. On closer inspection the seed heads are empty, and the few colorful birds darting between the stalks are some of the likely culprits who took advantage of the rich seeds.
Haymaking is over for the year. Our fields have plenty of forage but if cut it would not dry enough to bale and store without molding, and could even become a fire hazard. The last three loads were brought in on Tuesday, September 10. Although it was the hottest haymaking day of the year, it proved to be the best day of community service ever for the six men and four women from Nationwide Insurance Company.
They worked alongside our regular Tuesday crew of men, two of whom had retired from Nationwide and been coworkers with the newbie’s. Naturally, they encouraged them to come back after retirement. It is not difficult to understand why this was their best day of service. They were out of the office, they felt useful bringing in winter feed, and they stuck with the task despite the unaccustomed heat and physical labor. The end of the day brought them a satisfaction not often experienced in everyday life.
The livestock have access to plenty of grazing in the North Pasture and field #5. This field dips somewhat towards the east end, and the cattle in particular do not like grazing in the dip. It seems they cannot see us, and it bothers them.
Fifteen lambs have gone to market this summer and there is plenty of meat available for purchase. One of Jessie’s Shetland twin lambs was sold because he had developed both a thick coat and a habit, like his mother, of pushing through the electric fence.
Six kid bucks were sold, weighing on average 40 lbs, and fetched $93 per cwt.
This is not a big return for the effort, but kid goats are always much slower to put on weight than lambs, who reach 100 lbs in the same time, and we have not the space to keep them longer. The colorful Boar/ Nubien cross buck has been sold, and will be replaced with a pure bred Toggenburg, a breed more suited to our needs.
Roxy, our Tamworth sow is unlikely to farrow by her last possible due date at the end of September. Farmer Jeff has put her on a diet and hand decorated reminders are posted around her pen. Roxy will soon be turned out into the fields to enjoy a change of scenery and grub delicacies. Once slimmed down he hopes that, given the right boar, she will breed next time. Meanwhile, we are investigating the possibility of purchasing young feeder pigs to help us get through the flush of corn from last year, and to consume this year’s crop once harvested.
Last Saturday an Apiary Dedication Ceremony took place, to formally recognize our new bee program and hive sponsors, and to share our future program opportunities. Details can be found on our web site. Prior to the blooming of the Goldenrod and the latest rains, the dry spell caused the nectar flow to slow enough that Dave Noble, Stratford’s bee keeper, had to supplement their feed to help prepare the bees for winter.
Plans for our annual Harvest Fair next Saturday, September 28, are in place. As usual it will be fun for the whole family from 10am – 4pm. and costs $6 for adults and $4 for children 2-12 years of age. The farm animals will rub noses with the mustangs coming to give rides. A ride on the hay wagon will allow you to view the whole farm. The zucchini toss is back by popular demand, along with all the other activities and music associated with Stratford’s own fair. You can pay at the gate, and we hope to see you.
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