A welcome inch of rain fell on Friday, November 11, at Stratford Ecological Center on Liberty Road. The spelt and rye planted in mid-October germinated well but was struggling due to lack of rain. The following day, the first substantial snowfall of the season greeted the Friends of Stratford who attended an appreciation chili cook-off and farm tour. The cornbread and chili were made in-house by the staff, and included vegetarian along with Stratford lamb, beef, and pork meat. Each pot was creatively named to describe its content and every pot was winner quality. After much taste searching and hilarity, the golden ladle was presented to Erin Gliatta, our Executive Director.
The farm is buttoned down for the winter with mowing and field work completed, except for the corn harvest. Field 3 was planted first and is mature, but field 6 is not quite there yet. The dry weather has reduced the amount of pasture, but Farmer Jeff still has five paddocks available for rotational grazing, before bad weather necessitates feeding in the barn.
The final work is finished on the drainage tile, leading from the solar monitoring pathway and the paw paw coop; it passes under the lane, and across the barn backyard to two adjoining gates and a graveled area. Originally the tile was to run all the way to the rabbit ear on the edge of the woods. The shorter route will allow the water time to dispense any effluent from the coop, as it penetrates the gravel and soil, before making its way under the farmyard to the rabbit ear and on to the stream.
Firewood is constantly needed for our maple sugaring process, and to burn in the patio fireplace, and thanks to our extensive woodlands there is never a shortage of downed trees. The Tuesday farmhands, both men and women, spent most of one day using the vertical log splitter in an area near the entrance gates, and hauling the wood in the gator for storage outside the sugar shack. At the end of the day, it was rumored that their not-quite-so-young bodies were feeling the effects of their labors!
The same could be said for Farmer Jeff, who demonstrated and supervised nineteen women, first through third year OSU veterinary students, in the art of trimming the hooves of our sheep. The students worked inside a line of metal gates set up in the barn lane. They worked in teams of two. Some found it easier to hold the ewe with her back against their chest, as if they were to be sheared, and their teammate did the trimming. Others, perhaps not quite as strong, laid the ewe on her side, and sat on the floor against her neck and head while their teammate trimmed away. It was an impressive sight, especially when young people are becoming more and more removed from agriculture.
Following up on Farmer Jeff’s desire to divide our fields into smaller paddocks, to improve the soil, the farmhands erected permanent high tensile wire fences to divide fields 4 and 5 in half. They can further divide the fields using moveable electric fences. In any scenario, the livestock would still have access to the single water trough in each field. In the past, when it gets really hot, the cattle like to climb into the trough to cool off. This becomes a problem as it fouls the water. In future a single electric wire could be run down the center of the trough to discourage such behavior. As a safeguard, signs have been erected on the electric fences lining the lane to the pond announcing they are hot!
On viewing the cattle in the North Pasture there are indeed a lot of animals. With winter, and the feed crunch approaching, three yearlings and 2 adults will go to the processors. A calf and another yearling, along with 3 nanny goats will go to auction. We plan to keep 2 goat kids born this year. Pigs are still absent on the farm, but we hope to remedy the situation when school children arrive for farm and nature tours next spring. The hens continue to go through their annual molt and adjust to the shorter daylight hours, and consequently eggs are in short supply.
As Thanksgiving approaches our programs and visiting are ending until maple sugar time. However, you can still come out to buy product any time during open hours. Please also check out our history timeline hanging on the walls in the big room. There is a wealth of information covering every year of Stratford’s operation. We extend a wish to you for a Happy Thanksgiving.
Pauline Scott is a farm and nature guide at Stratford Ecological Center, 3083 Liberty Road, Delaware. She can be reached at 740 363 2548 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org