Tornado topples trees at Stratford Ecological Center


The tornado that occurred in Delaware County late Thursday night, March 14, caused severe damage to homes and barns and downed many trees, causing electricity outages. At Stratford Ecological Center on Liberty Road, the tornado jumped up and down through our extensive woodland, taking out three dozen big trees. The Education and Farm buildings were outside the tornado’s path. The west wall of the barn took a strong battering from the wind, as daylight is now visible between the boards. The wooden shade structure in the Back Yard blew over, and on a lighter note, the porta potty on the lane.

The night of the frightening tornado Farmer Jeff was out of town, and his wife, LauraAnn and son, Luke, had to ensure the livestock were in the barn, the chickens shut in, and everywhere made as secure as possible. They later walked the long driveway to remove debris so the staff could get to work. We applaud them.

The aging heritage apple trees in the orchard have been heavily pruned and the suckers removed. They recovered well after an extensive pruning during COVID, and we plan to keep them short for their health and easier picking. The two pear trees in the Children’s Garden received a similar haircut and look very smart. Long white oak boards are stacked in the garden; they will be used to create raised vegetable beds, from the existing ground level beds, for easier maintenance. One of the beds will be reserved for herbs and other flavorful plants to use with the vegetables.

All 21 ewes lambed this year, a credit to Sir Patrick, our long-time ram. We regrettably lost three lambs under unusual circumstances, but we are happy to share that the remaining 28 are healthy and beautiful and brighten our days. Four of our seven nanny goats have given birth since March 19, for a total of six kids. Shale, our buck with the black stripe down his back, was born last February and arrived at the farm in October. After putting on weight, he joined the nannies for breeding, and has matured into a handsome gentle adult. A bull calf was born March 12, bringing our total since early January to six calves out of six cows, none of which were planned! The last of the mature calves went to the processor in February, and there is plenty of meat to purchase.

Spring brings thoughts of baby chicks. We purchased 12 chicks and housed them in the classroom hutch. Nine are olive eggers, a new breed to us. The olives, like our araucanas, lay blue-green eggs. The olives grew quickly and have been moved to the Paw Paw Coop to make room for our own chicks. The other three are bantams, a smaller bird, and much easier for our young visitors to catch, pickup, and hold close to their chests. In the library, the egg incubator is up and running. It takes 21 days for a chick to develop, and the first one chipped away its shell on April 11.

On April 10, Farmer Jeff and Mariah, our AmeriCorps intern, used the trailer to comfortably transport five Tamworth/Hereford cross, 9-week-old, pink and white piglets, from Paul Morrison’s Family Tam Farm in New Madison, Ohio. They are all littermates, three large and two small. Their arrival has long been awaited. Their pen has transitioned from holding ewes and lambs back to a pig pen. They are still adapting to their new quarters and lay huddled together in the darkest corner. Laura Underwood, who joined our staff on April 9 as an environmental educator, is well aware that pigs have a higher intelligence than dogs and plans to spend time each day talking and bonding with them. Laura hopes to discover how their behavior changes when given extra attention.

On the day of the total Eclipse, Monday, April 8, there were two parties at Stratford. One was for the family who bid highest during our Enchanted Evening Fundraiser auction last August. A meal included our own beef steaks and salad greens decorated with violets and spring beauties, homemade sour dough bread and ramp butter, and Oreo cookies designed to look like the stages of the eclipse. Powerful telescopes, with special covers, were set up on the lawn enabling our guests to see not only the eclipse, but Venus and a couple of stars. The second party was the staff and family party at the Prairie Pavilion beside the pond. They enjoyed a potluck and the downtime because spring activities had moved into full swing the previous week.

A new opportunity to visit and volunteer at Stratford is now on our calendar. The second Saturday of the month from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. has been designated for those who cannot come out during the week. Alex Lagusch, farmhand extraordinary, will offer an orientation to those wishing to discover their own niche at Stratford. Steve Hanson, a Garden Gang leader, will head a gardening project. Paul Sandstrom, our invasives removal guru, will guide an invasive removal opportunity.

Further opportunities include an Earth Day Tree Planting and Invasive Species Removal on Saturday, April 27, from 9:30 a.m. to noon; and a Bird Walk on Saturday, May 11, from 8 to 10 a.m. Story Time on the Farm begins on the second Monday in May through October from 10 to 11 a.m.

More information on these and our regular monthly programs can be found on our website. We hope you find one that excites you!

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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