Stratford in the FallOctober 20, 2012
Adventures on the FarmJanuary 19, 2013
Published in The Delaware Gazette December 16, 2012
A delicate touch on the steering wheel and minimum speed was necessary to drive safely along the farm lane leading to Stratford Ecological Center on Liberty Road last Monday afternoon. Gabe Ross assistant farmer had pushed the leaves off the surface into the woods and then pulled a box rake over the top. The tines brought the compacted sand and gravel to the surface and the back board smoothed it out. Unfortunately, the first few cars along the lane mounded up the wet earth like rows of snow, and I felt like a race car driver negotiating the slippery yellow surface.
The lane was fine after a frosty night and will be useable all winter without the costly application of a fresh layer of gravel. Earlier in the month, after the corn came off Field #1, it was a different story. The lane was littered with pieces of corn leaves dropped by the one-row corn picker as it returned to the machine shed. This is an unusual sight, as despite being a “working” farm, we pride ourselves on being picked up and tidy. It helps from a safety angle, encourages volunteers to clean up after them selves and shows our visitors how much we care about the Center.
The messy corn leaves reminded me of an incident shared by a farm manager, when I was employed as the farm secretary. He loved a clean farm yard and when he hired a new employee he tried to choose one with the same standards. His mode of operation was to go to the man’s home and interview him. If the interior looked well kept, with a normal layer of dust, and the man was qualified, he would hire him. When one new hire turned out to be really slovenly, he could not understand his mistake. He found out the interview had taken place in the home of the man’s neighbor!
A new project, involving the Columbus Zoo, is taking place in our distant hay Fields #8 & 9 bordering Rt. 23. To access these fields you must walk beyond the duck blind at the pond and take the track through the woods, or walk through the woods on the cemetery trail behind the sugar shack. The project is a joint effort with the Columbus Zoo to grow willow trees to provide leaves and shoots known as “browse” for their animals. The trees benefit the fields by providing a buffer strip along Rt. 23 and should stabilize the erosion occurring over the last few years. The young trees are protected by a solar powered wire fence.
With the warmer weather the animals continue to graze on pasture, with enough hay fed to keep them in maintenance mode. The rain helped to regenerate a welcome growth of grass in Fields #4 & 5. The summer drought and less acreage in grass reduced our grazing options.
The Tunis ram happily remains in the company of the ewes. The borrowed Shetland ram has finished his job and returned home. Apollo, the Boer-Nubien buck goat was turned in with the goats during Thanksgiving weekend and kids can be expected in late April.
The bull continues to be with the cows, and as they are not showing any signs of coming into heat, we are hopeful they are bred. The last of Roxy’s babes are about to go to the processors. This means we have plenty of pork and we may need to take advantage of the walk in freezer space kindly offered to us by PIN in Delaware. The hens are in the middle of their down period of egg production and we regret eggs are in short supply.
The lobby area in the Education Building is boasting a new layout. We feel the new design of shelving and displays makes it easier to shop and understand what we have to offer at Stratford. A list of greens for u-pick is posted, with scissors, bags and weigh scales close by. Presently, the greenhouse is begging folks to come and harvest the organic greens before they go beyond their best.
If you want some easy holiday shopping come and inspect our efforts in the lobby. Non- perishables include creamed, cinnamon, and pure honey, prairie seed mixes, wooden Shaker boxes, a book on backyard sugaring and child’s coloring book, local soap, and cat nip pillows for pet gifts. We also continue to have a variety of frozen meats for sale. If you are not quite sure what you should buy for someone, we do have gift certificates.
All of us wish you a Happy, Healthy Holiday Season, and we hope you have many opportunities to enjoy the working/teaching farm and woods at Stratford in 2013.
“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.