Rain failed to put damper on Harvest Fair


After an extended dry period and a light frost at Stratford Ecological Center on Liberty Road, the rain came the night before our annual Harvest Fair on Saturday, Oct. 14, and showers continued through the 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. event. These did not deter the vendors and local organizations from setting up their tents,or visitors fishing at the pond, feeding the chickens, checking out the barn animals and the blacksmith, making cider, or swaying on the lawn to the live folk music.

Inside the Education Building, the bee group spread tarps and manually scraped wax from honeycombs as this technique worked better than using the $300 automated equipment! Visitors followed the whole process as the combs were spun in the centrifuge, and the honey strained into a bucket prior to bottling. Children were content to sit awhile and work on crafts, while parents enjoyed hot cider and coffee. Harvest Fair takes a lot of effort to ensure a happy day, but it always proves worthwhile.

Our Enchanted Evening fundraiser at the end of August proved to be fun, closely packed time together while circulating and enjoying hors d’oeuvres. It was easier to read nametags and stop to enjoy a conversation. During dinner, the silent auction continued online, and guests did not have to leave their seats to check on bidding. Our guests supported us very generously, resulting in an exceptional record-breaking event, the impact of which will be felt in many ways.

The farmhands have spent several Tuesdays trying to locate a water pipe laid years ago from the gazebo lawn to a spigot on the east side of field 3. In the intervening time, six raised beds were built along the route to grown vegetables for PIN and native plants by the Delaware Master Gardeners, and a closer water source was needed. Using a backhoe, and even a divining rod, alas without success, the initial ditch did not reveal the pipe. It was decided to dig another between two of the raised beds in the hope of intercepting the pipe. And hey, presto, they did, perhaps sooner than expected as the hoe snagged the pipe and cracked it, and as the water had not yet been turned off, it sprayed everywhere! All was soon fixed, a new spigot installed with a big post to protect it during mowing, and the ground rototilled and seeded.

We have a new buck goat called Shale, to replace Duncan, who arrived in early spring. Duncan was bottle fed for half his life before we purchased him, and therefore did not gain any immunity from drinking his mother’s milk. He succumbed to a parasite infestation so quickly that there were no outward warning signs that he was ill. The newcomer is an Alpine, born last February, with a beautiful black stripe running the length of his back. Charlie Peanut, a small nanny, raised on the farm, has joined him for company. Farmer Jeff plans to have Shale put on more weight before he breeds with the other nanny goats beginning Nov. 7.

Farmer Jeff planted spelt in the north end of field 2, in part of field 4, and an acre in the middle of field 3 on Oct. 10. As #2 and #4 were extremely dry, the seed bed preparations included a lot of disking and chisel plowing, and a final pass in #4 with a spiked tooth harrow. After a tight mow during the last hay harvest in #3, the spelt was planted directly into the foxtail, alfalfa, and clover, and all will be baled as hay next year.

The Tuesday gardeners are switching over to winter crops in the greenhouse and making a final effort to prep the flowers beds and catch up with the weeding in the children’s and rain gardens. Nearby, the fifth grade Messages program students were very animated as they gathered to end their day. Their guide shared, when asked, if he needs a nap when he goes home, that he does not but he does ask his wife if he could have a quiet period!

We hope the weather holds up for some time and you are able to visit. Maple syrup is still available, honey supplies have been replenished, and there is plenty of beef and lamb, a little pork shoulder and loin roasts, as well as ground goat which can be used in place of beef or lamb in almost any recipe. Three hogs went to market on Oct. 24, and more pork will soon be available. The hens are laying fewer eggs due to the diminishing hours of daylight. Greens continue to flourish.

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.

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