All is well at Stratford Ecological Center


The area around the Education and Farm buildings, the fields, the prairie, and the pond, looked exceptionally beautiful on a sunny afternoon at Stratford Ecological Center on Liberty Road. The swath of Queen Anne’s lace and red clover in Field 5 is eye catching in its natural beauty. The prairie is blooming. The pond water is clear and soft, thanks to the two aerators. Cattails line the border, except in the fishing area around the dock, and remain controlled. Pond weed continues to require some pulling annually, and Farmer Jeff is looking for an alternative method to the usual one that involves cutting the weed from the shore and hauling it out in the canoe.

We were grateful for the 20 volunteers from Huntington Bank who showed up for a morning’s work on July 18. Half the group worked in the raised beds in the Giving Garden. It was magic to see the rhubarb bed and squash bed cleaned up, another prepared for winter crops, and a fourth that yielded two big buckets of superb potatoes. These were later delivered to PIN, along with the weekly produce from the big greenhouse. The second group worked out at the Sugar Shack and exhibited their ability to use a chain saw to cut up wood for the 2024 sugaring season. They were in no rush to leave and relished the opportunity to be outside and help us, for which we are thankful.

A second cut of quality hay, totaling 565 bales, was brought in by a small group of farmhands on Aug. 3. The John Deere hay bine used to cut and crimp the grass developed gear box problems, and we finished cutting with the New Zealand-made Reese double disc mower. So far, we have 1,600 bales, with more to come from fields 8 and 9 beside Route 23.

After a lot of planning, the annual Herb Group Tea Party for boys and girls took place on Aug. 2. Since covid, the Herb Group has largely been made up of new members, and after a practice run last year, they were pros this year. The girls wore their prettiest dresses and looked like a picture. Their mode of dress did not deter them from hunting for tomatoes and cucumbers and stepping around the hens to collect eggs. The children used this bounty to prepare sandwiches to add to the buffet table. They enjoyed the practical life experiences, including making herb teas and arranging flowers. Next year’s requests were to play with the animals, take a hike, make a fairy garden, pick apples, and learn more about herbs. Quite a challenge!

The Stratford Bee Group was very pleased with the response to its new Beekeeping SPecial INterest Club (SPIN) for 12-14-year-old 4-H participants. The youngsters came out having little or no experience, endured stings on their first outing, and still came back. They also came every Thursday to open a hive in the orchard and teach the farm campers about the importance of bees, pollination, and the production of honey. Stratford provided protective white clothing for all participants, and it was a sight to behold. The bees did not like this year’s humidity and smoke but have continued to make a lot of honey. One hundred and seventy-five pounds were harvested on Aug.3, bringing this year’s total to 525 pounds.

We are excited to share that world renowned bee specialist Dr. Olivia Carril will travel from New Mexico to lead a “Catch the Buzz Wild Bee Workshop” at Stratford on Sept. 8 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The cost is $65 and includes materials and lunch. The online registration deadline is Aug. 31.

Seven more male lambs went to the processor on Aug. 7. Farmer Jeff plans to keep some of the female lambs. When making his choice, he pays close attention to the shape of their udder, and how much wool grows around it. His aim is to make it as easy as possible for their future lambs to suckle. Sir Patrick, our ram, is looking good. He and the buck goat, Duncan, have been rooming together in the little house and field near the Education Center. Both will start the mating season in October. Another in-milk 2-year-old goat called Mint Julep has joined 3-year-old Josie. Both will be dried off soon, to allow time for them to build up their strength before mating.

Our annual fundraising event, Enchanted Evening, is scheduled for Aug. 24 at the Columbus Zoo. The deadline has passed for purchasing tickets, but you can participate in the auction by going to our website and bidding online. There are numerous exciting items at a wide range of prices, and we would appreciate your support.

With school back in session and farm camp over, we are regrouping for the fall season. Please keep your eye on our web site for more opportunities to visit Stratford. Harvest Fair is scheduled a little later this year, on Oct. 14, and it’s a great opportunity for the whole family to spend a day on the farm.

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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