The high temperatures this past month has called for daily watering, fortunately with our own well water, in the big greenhouse, the smaller greenhouse, and the ADA-compliant accessible planter boxes and pots of red bud trees on the patio at Stratford Ecological Center on Liberty Road. The healthy red buds were donated during Earth Week and potted up to allow further development before planting on the edge of our woods this fall. The big greenhouse, and the beds in the Children’s Garden, and the Giving Garden, have produced a variety of vegetables for People in Need in Delaware all summer. The last week of August we sent 186 pounds, and that is a lot of tomatoes and squash!
The apple trees in the orchard have produced a bumper crop this year. Farmhands began harvesting on Sept. 5. Eight bushels were moved to the walk-in cooler in the big machine shed for use when demonstrating cider making to school children this fall. We will have enough for Harvest Fair on Oct. 14, and to freeze for the Messages Program students to heat over the patio fireplace in February. Our founder, Louise Warner and husband Clyde Gosnell, recently called it quits making 50 gallons of cider every year on their homestead and have donated their press. It is a newer model, and we can shred apples and press out the juice at the same time. This is a significant time saver when schools have limited hours at Stratford.
Farmer Jeff is confident we have enough pasture grazing to last until February, despite having to utilize extra acreage for hay after a sharp object was picked up by the baler and bent the mechanism. The repair and wet weather delayed baling for a week, resulting in poor quality bales only suitable for bedding, mulching, and possibly feeding when the animals have nothing better to eat.
There are now 2,100 hay bales in the loft, enough for the winter. Some “Teff” hay bales were donated to us from the David Brandt Family Farm in Carroll, Ohio. Teff is the smallest cereal grain in the world and resembles millet. DBF Farm supplies seed and hay, and practices improved land management through the planting of cover crops. This is a subject close to Farmer Jeff’s heart, and he hopes to meet with them and expand his knowledge.
We recently sold a number of roosters in order to reach a practical number. We plan to move the chickens from the Paw Paw coop to the Orchard, while we reclaim the overgrown grass in the coop. Once that happens, all 75 chickens will spend the winter there. The hogs continue to live outside in the Corral. They have learned that when moved to fresh grazing the deeper they dig the more grubs they find, and this is obvious by the considerable height of the latest furrows. Sir Patrick, the ram, pushed through a gap in the gate caused by youngsters trying to enter his field. He ran over to the barn where the ewes were peacefully chewing the cud in their pen. The strong board fences kept him out, but he is very strong, and Farmer Jeff could not risk trying to get him back alone. Instead, he lured him into a large empty lambing pen, where he remained for six days until the farmhands helped return him. In another two weeks mating season starts, and he will be a happy boy!
The Messages from the Earth science program for fifth graders started immediately after Labor Day, to accommodate all the schools before the fall part of the program ends at Thanksgiving. Experienced farm and nature guides took turns guiding and sharing their personal knowledge during this past week’s training session. Tours will start late September. Farm school has been postponed until next spring to allow more preparation time.
Monthly Book Talks, led by Liz Barker, continue all year on the third Friday of the month from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. The Herbal Study Group has returned to its 1-3 p.m. time slot on the second Tuesday of the month. Story Time on the Farm offers its last story and activity on Oct. 9 from 10-11 a.m. The Photography Club meets on the third Thursday of the month from 10 to noon from January to November. The Harvest Fair runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Oct. 14. Walk-ins are welcome or you can preregister online. All program details can be found on our website.
Our fall self-guided visiting hours are Tuesday and Thursday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Farm Market shopping is available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. We hope you can find time to visit.
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: StratfordEcologicalCenter.org.