We hope you had a chance to visit Stratford Ecological Center on Liberty Road since mid-August. At that time work finished on installing fencing, new annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees in the beds on two sides of the Education Building and the parking lot. The east bed beside the walkway had flourished a little too much since renovations five years ago, and the other two were looking very sorry for themselves.
In January the Tuesday gardeners took advantage of the lull to measure and plan the bed content. It is easy to get carried away, and by May they realized two new plantings adjacent to the building would be enough. The Tuesday farm crew was asked to only remove and replace the rotting railroad ties in the parking lot bed. They set to with enthusiasm using the “big” tractor. It wasn’t long before deep trenches ran through the bed, and it became obvious everything would have to come out.
With our upscale “Enchanted Evening” event fast approaching, everyone pitched in and created three raised beds outlined in locus logs and landscape bricks, with a split-rail fence down the middle, and planted a quick fix of annuals. They made it, and everyone is very happy with their efforts and new look.
We lost one llama, Curzon, in January, when he could not get up in the pasture. In May we lost another, Jefe, from unknown causes. This was a concern, as we could not replace the llamas without assurance of what was happening. We agreed to have a necropsy performed to determine the cause.
The results were received in August and were inconclusive. There was nothing to explain the sudden death, including checks on the blood, eating, parasites and heart failure. This means issues at Stratford could be ruled out. Farmer Jeff was very relieved, and once again approached Barb Baker, associate director of the International Llama Association, to see if she had a llama available to fill the gap.
Barb donated Lightning, a grand champion Silky, who arrived on Sept. 1. Thank you to Barb for her generosity. Lightning is in great condition, with a black coat and two white front feet. He was introduced to our remaining llama, Rafiki, who is a male Suri. Rafiki, though smaller, immediately asserted himself as the alpha male. He was challenged after three hours but stood his ground, and the two are now getting along well.
Another newcomer is Chiki, a donated orange tiger cat, who brings our cat number to five. Chiki took to climbing over the wire fence and “playing” with our young chickens housed in the Children’s Garden. They did not appreciate his presence. To cure him, Farmer Jeff put Chiki in the orchard with the hens and rooster. After an encounter with the rooster he has changed his habits, and now plays with visitors.
Two of the kid goats continue to slip between the rails in the barn and escape outside. As long as they are kept out of the garden they do no harm, and eventually return to the nannies. They must have observed the hay bales, collected over Labor Day weekend, being loaded on the escalator and carried to the hayloft. They were later observed walking “up” the escalator to investigate! Suffice to say, they also walked “down” unscathed.
It has been an incredible grass year for feeding out stock, especially our lambs. The first ram lambs sent to the processor weighed an average of 110 lbs. That is 10 pounds heavier than usual, and indicative of the quality of the pasture production. We try and graze our animals as long as possible before housing them, and they still have access to the barn yard.
Stratford could not operate the way it does without lots of volunteers, and new ones are always welcome! It even pays to be a volunteer as Liz Barker, a veteran farm and nature guide and Tuesday gardener, found out to her surprise. While waiting in line to pay for groceries, Liz chatted with the customer behind her. She shared that she volunteered at Stratford. When Liz tried to pay for her groceries, the lady said that Liz should use her card. She wanted to “pay forward” because she appreciated Liz being a volunteer. What a wonderful gesture of support for a volunteer. Liz smiled broadly as she shared her tale at a guide training this week. We applauded the unknown giver.
In the past we have offered a couple of excellent courses from the Northwest Earth Institute through Simply Living in Columbus. This fall we will offer “Choices for Sustainable Living” on Thursdays, Oct. 1 through Nov. 19, from 6:30 to 8 pm. The book costs $30, and we can get it if you register by Sept. 21. After that date, you can still register but will need to order the book through www.nwei.org.
A first at Stratford is a free range five-kilometer off-road run/walk through the fields and forest on Saturday, Sept. 26, with check-in at 8 a.m. and start time at 9 a.m. The cost is $30 for adults and $15 for children 12 & under, including admission to Harvest Fair. To register, please go to our website below. The run coincides with our annual Harvest Fair which starts at 10 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. The fair is a great day out for everyone and costs $5 per person or $15 per family with no registration necessary.