Stratford preparing for fall season


Fall is upon us, and due to the increasing morning dew taking longer to burn off, it is unlikely there will be any more hay making this year at Stratford Ecological Center on Liberty Road. Thanks to an additional 433 bales brought in during mid-August, our total stands at 2,233, hopefully enough to see us through what is forecasted to be a very cold winter. Farmer Jeff will continue to reduce the number of animals on the farm, especially the beef herd, after an influx of calves the last two years.

The Prairie continues to be a wonderful sight with crisscrossing grass paths allowing easy access to explore. A new Story Book Trail was recently installed to help explain to young children the benefits of a prairie and to encourage them to plant a small pocket in their own yard. The book is titled “Plant a Pocket of Prairie” by Phyllis Root and illustrated by Betsy Bowen. The colorful pictures blend perfectly with our own prairie.

Nearby, the pond is looking healthy with clear water and only a small stand of weed in the center. The two bubblers, powered by three solar panels on the Prairie Pavilion, have reduced nutrient buildup which feeds the weed. The cattails have reappeared around the edge of the pond despite heavy restoration work in the fall of 2019.

On the south side of the pond, concealed amongst the ever-taller willow trees grown for browse for the zoo, is a new addition to the farm this spring. It is a much-appreciated portable toilet which will remain there through late fall! For young legs, in an emergency, it is a long and time-consuming walk from the pond to the facilities in the education building and back again.

At the end of August, a record number of 100 geese were observed gleaning the fallen oat seeds in field 6 beside the willows. The field was enriched with evacuated pond soil, and this year’s oat hay crop was a good one.

The final hoist of honey in early September resulted in 580 pounds and is available for purchase. The hives will now be treated for mites. The bees continue to make honey, to consume during the winter, and the Apiary Group will supplement, if necessary, with sugar cake in late winter.

The purple martins left in August for their winter home in South America. The barn swallows left somewhat earlier than usual, which may bode colder weather approaching more quickly!

On Aug. 31, Emily, our education coordinator, organized a late afternoon Volunteer Open House at Stratford for anyone interested in the many volunteer opportunities offered at the center. Seasoned volunteers were on hand to answer questions as field and nature guides led small groups around the farm. Interest was expressed in the cemetery, the photography club, guiding, the front desk, weeding, the apiary program, bird monitoring, cleaning chicken coops and even washing windows.

The fall visiting days have been established. We will be open to the public Monday and Thursday from 9-5 p.m. and Saturday from 9-1 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday have been reserved for designated programs, and we remain closed on Sunday. Many of the programs are available to the public and volunteers, so please check our website to find more options to visit.

Once again Farm School will take place this fall for 6-12 years old from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and preschool for 4-5 years old from 9 a.m. to noon. Please register online.

Our annual fun family-orientated Harvest Fair is on Saturday, Oct. 1, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Many of the popular activities like face painting, feeding the chickens, pressing cider and climbing on the round bale caterpillar will be back, as well as live music with Freedom N’ Folk Revival and a food truck. The cost is $5 per person, ages 2 and under free. Pre-registration is available, or you can pay at the gate. We hope you can join us for one of our happiest days on the farm.

By Pauline Scott

Farm Connection

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 [email protected]. Website:

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