Winter preparations completed at Stratford

A window of opportunity to harvest the corn opened up on Dec. 5 at Stratford Ecological Center on Liberty Road. The moisture was a little higher than desirable at 24/25%, and the yield was somewhat lower than hoped, due to a late planting after wet weather and over-active deer. We still have dry corn from 2021 in storage and plan to leave it there. As we do not dry our corn, this year’s harvest will be used first in our feed mix to avoid the risk of molding.

The one-row corn picker was the last piece of machinery needed this year, so the annual task of storing our machinery undercover began on Dec. 6. The farmhands find a tape measure comes in handy! Allowing for the possibility of acquiring donated equipment in the near future made the calculations more complex this year.

Their first chore was to move the protein-rich golden spelt hay from the equipment shed to the hay loft. The forage hay had been stacked in the loft as it was brought in from the fields, with space left in the middle for the spelt, to ensure easy access for feeding. The temperature in the loft was very pleasant compared to a July day in the high 90s, but the men still needed to shed their winter apparel.

The farm animals finished grazing the last of the grass paddocks. After farmhands made sure the electric fence was hot, they were allowed to move on to glean the fallen corn kernels in field 6. It was a majestic sight to see them walking along led by our matriarch cow, Pumpkin.

We said goodbye and thanked Dumbo, our hand-raised goat earlier this month. He was easy to recognize with his long ears, handsome body and long horns. Those horns had become a problem when he enthusiastically greeted visitors entering his pen. The decision was a long time coming, but it was finally decided to send him to auction.

Paula Ziebarth supplied us with the results of the 2022 Bird Trail Report for Stratford. Paula is the Delaware County area contact for the Ohio Bluebird Society. The largest groups of birds monitored and cared for by our volunteers are purple martins, tree swallows and bluebirds. The purple martins utilized 60 nesting gourds located beside the pond and fledged a record 234 young. The tree swallows and bluebirds share a common grid in the prairie, and other places on the farm. This year the results of the two birds flipped. The bluebirds had an impressive record year with 52 fledged, while the tree swallows returned to a more normal level of 101 fledged, after a record 134 last year.

We are blessed with skillful volunteers at Stratford. For example, the bars on the large iron fire grate in the outside fireplace were rusting and logs falling through. A volunteer kindly brought in their surplus grate, only to find it was too small and the logs rolled off the front! Then we remembered we had a farmhand who could weld. Like magic, it re-appeared in the hearth supporting a glowing fire. We are grateful, and to all our volunteers, for their willingness to support Stratford with their particular talents.

During the last three years, we have been unable to get together as often as we would like to show our appreciation to the volunteers. Fortunately, we were able to do so after work on Dec. 6. The Nocterra Brewing Company in Powell offered us their space to host a party for 70-plus people. It is the first time we have hosted such a gathering outside Stratford. The staff shared details of this year’s accomplishments by our diverse groups. It was very relaxing for volunteers and staff alike, and a great opportunity to spend time with those who volunteer in a different field, if you will excuse the pun!

Our program calendar, events, farm school and farm camp information for the coming year at Stratford are nearing completion. Information will be posted on our web site and social media. We are looking forward to sharing our 236 acres with old and new friends. We wish you a very happy holiday season and all the best in the new year.

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: