Published in The Delaware Gazette: March 16, 2013
It was a sure sign of spring when the first adorable red-fibered lamb was born at Stratford Ecological Center on Liberty Road on February 26, quickly followed by his twin brother. The news spread and everyone found time to visit the barn and check them out. The following week brought a set of twins nearly every day. There was one casualty, when two large ram twins were vying to come out first, and the second regrettably did not make it out alive.
The ten red-faced ewes are either a breed from Tunisia in North Africa called Tunis, or are a cross with a breed from England, either a Hampshire or a Dorset. The lighter faced ewes betray the fact they are not pure Tunis. They thrive in dry conditions, but suffer with hoof rot when rain persists. The Tunis is renowned for its ability to lamb easily and produce plenty of milk and good meat. Its fleece is only of medium grade. We usually give away our wool after spring shearing to artisans who want to wash, card and felt it. This year we will be able to offer it to members of Stratford’s Fiber Circle, a new group formed in January to bring together anyone interested in fiber.
It is perhaps just as well that March arrived with daytime temperatures in the cold, grey thirties and nighttime below freezing. It meant the sap flowing in the maple trees was still white and sweet, rather than green and bitter, and allowed us to continue maple syrup production. It has been a more difficult season, due to the sap freezing in the collection buckets, and it is taking much longer to cook down. We continue to collect the sap and estimate we will produce about 13 gallons of maple syrup this year.
We hosted our annual Maple Syrup Breakfast on May 9. Five hundred people enjoyed our home-raised pork sausages, whole wheat pancakes, and a walk to the sugar shack to see the operation. Tom Wood of NBC4 news came out bright and early that morning to broadcast the activities in the sugar bush, barn and greenhouse. Tom dressed for the mud and chilly air, but once he stepped inside the greenhouse he found it necessary to remove his luxurious fur hat as he interviewed Laura Ann.
In the greenhouse volunteers, led by Jim Scowden, have completed the brick retaining walls and secured the split locust posts around the vegetable beds. Farmer Jeff said the extra thermal mass in the greenhouse, due to the heat retention in the bricks, has increased the inside temperature over the outdoor temperature by six degrees. This is a major plus for the variety of green vegetables bravely hanging on over the winter. Tom and his crew enjoyed the warmth too before leaving to sample the breakfast fare.
“Farm Connection” is a monthly article connecting city folk to life on the Stratford Ecological Center farm. It is published on the third Saturday of the month on the farm and garden page of The Delaware Gazette.
Stratford Ecological Center 3083 Liberty Road • Delaware • Ohio • 43015 740-363-2548 • email@example.com • www.stratfordecologicalcenter.org