The first of this year’s hay crop was brought in off fields 2 and 3 on May 24 at Stratford Ecological Center on Liberty Road. There was a great improvement in timing and quality compared to the last three wet springs with their constant delays. The grass was dry enough to bale by early afternoon. It was windy and this caused a surprising phenomenon to happen after they were on the wagon.

The baler twine was originally tight around the bales, but by the time they reached the barn and glided up the elevator to the hayloft, the twine on a number of the bales had gone slack, so much so they could not be stacked, and the hay was falling out. The wind had caused them to further dry and shrink! There was no loss or rebaling as the loose hay was fed to the animals. The final first cutting was brought in on June 8, making a satisfying total of 800 bales.

Farmer Jeff used the new roller-crimper to reduce an acre of the 2.5 acres of annual rye grass in field 3. He saw what excellent coverage it gave the soil. He realized that if he planted corn as he had intended, using the new no-till drill, he would have to wait two years before he had a similar field cover. He made the decision to get away from growing corn and follow his desired route to restore the health of the farm soil. He will buy non-GMO corn or a substitute to use in the hog and poultry feed, reduce their numbers, and graze the hogs for a longer period. The proof of the feed quality will be in the pudding!

The one acre is now in tomatoes and squash, and the rest will be sown with buckwheat. The remaining acreage will go into pumpkins after it is dry enough to crimp. In the fall, it will all be planted in spelt. This year’s plans included using the no-till drill to plant festulolium, a cross between perennial ryegrass and meadow fescue, in many areas of the farm, and was completed before the past week’s rain.

On a sunny Friday in early June, the volunteer Farm and Nature guides, the Messages from the Earth guides, and the staff met for a potluck luncheon and discussion on the patio. The wide variety of tasty summer salads, humus and crackers, cherries, and just enough sweetmeats to satisfy our palates, set an excellent tone for the all-important question of how to secure more guides.

The average size of a school class visiting Stratford has risen from 40 to 60 children. Since we try to break into groups of eight or less, this means we need three more guides per day. As people become more removed from farming life and the environment, new volunteers are less confident that they have the ability to guide, despite the availability of training and shadowing. By the end of the discussion, the whiteboard was full of new ideas for reaching out, wider ways of gaining knowledge, and in some cases, narrowing the focus of the group as shared by their teacher in advance. If you have a little time, a love of the outdoors, and would enjoy interacting with children, please contact us.

Farm camp for 53 6- to 8-year-olds started on June 5. The children were well acclimated by the fourth day, when I noticed them sitting quietly under the big oak tree on the lawn. Usually, they are up and running about when I catch a glimpse of them. It turns out they now have more regular quiet periods during the day in order to have a change of pace and regroup. The Messages from the Earth program also practices this with their 15-minute alone time in a “magic spot” which the student selects in the woods. It is often voted a favorite part of the day. The Farm and Nature guides have now started incorporating a magic spot for a short period during their two-hour tours. In this world of seemingly continuous rushing about, more quiet time seems an excellent idea.

There are still openings to take part in the Meet the Bees and Meet the Pollinators programs held on the third Saturday of the month. A Honey Heist is planned for Saturday, June 24, from 9-11 a.m. for ages 10 and up. Reservations can be made online. The Stratford Herb Group’s annual Garden Tea Party for young people will take place on Wednesday, Aug. 2, with registration already open online. Storytime on the Farm continues on the second Monday of the month from 10-11 a.m., with pre-registration or walk-in.

We are open to the public on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., except on the holiday weekends listed on our website. A new Storybook Trail sharing the value of accessible water will be available in mid-July located on the Creek Trail behind the barn. We wish you a happy summer.

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: