Exhilarating ambiance at Stratford farm


This time of year at Stratford Ecological Center on Liberty Road is especially exhilarating. The tree leaves and blossoms pop out, with small fruits quickly following on the apple and pear trees. The bright spring perennials, herbs, and wildflowers catch our eye, generating a lot of excitement, and the fields beckon to be cut for hay.

The Herb Group held its annual Edible Plant Identification and Luncheon on April 27. Cheryl Trivisonno led the 20 participants across the lawn, and to the perennial beds around the Education Building, before taking them into the woods. Cheryl wanted to emphasize that presently there are plenty of young plants around your own home that taste good. Before eating any plant, she repeated the sage advice to check three reliable sources to ensure they are edible.

Earth Day was officially April 22, but Stratford did not wait to improve our environment. We offered numerous opportunities to corporate volunteers, and to our own, to remove invasives, including garlic mustard and wild honeysuckle, to plant trees in open woodland after invasive removal or on the edge, or in large pots for further growth, to eliminate cattails from the edge of the pond before they become so thick we have to bring in a machine, to clean up the herb garden, and to beef up the Children’s Garden vegetable beds with zoo brew.

The trees were donated by Keep Ohio Beautiful and the Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District. There must have been a thousand trees, including species not familiar to me from our past plantings. These included bayberry, Washington hawthorn, blackhaw viburnum, white fringe tree, and chinkapin, swamp, and shumard oak. We have a close relationship with the Columbus Zoo, and we potted 50 redbuds and 50 American beech for them.

This year, we had 14 goat kids from seven nannies. Josie and Julep amazed us by giving birth to healthy triplets. The last nannies to give birth and their kids were all together in the fenced-in barn isle, and this provided a great opportunity for the school children to touch so many animals. Kid goats are noted for their curiosity and ability to climb and squeeze through small openings. Four of the kids gained access to the lower hay loft stairs and actually jumped down into a small storage area containing paper sacks full of leaves. After tearing into the bags, they were quickly banished, and their access blocked!

The three young AmeriCorps interns — Kiki, Mariah and Alejandro — took on a much greater responsibility recently during Farmer Jeff’s vacation. Their tasks included the tree planting and the total care of the livestock and chickens. This required Kiki to return at 8 p.m. to close the hen house door and do a final check of the animals in the barn.

The weather has been conducive to a flush of new grass, and the livestock were allowed to graze beyond the worked-over farmyard and return to the barn at will. Since their stomachs need time to adapt to breaking down the rich grass, as opposed to dry hay, they have to be watched carefully for any sign of bloating. This is due to their inability to release gas, which if not, can be fatal. To avoid problems, the amount of time on grass is monitored carefully. As time passed the livestock adapted and no symptoms appeared. The interns certainly rose to meet the challenge, and we are grateful and proud of them.

We have known for some time the importance of saving and sharing the history of Stratford through stories. We needed someone to research our records and interview our founder, board, staff, and volunteers to compile this history. We were fortunate to find Nadya Bennett last fall. Nadya was working towards her Ph.D. and was required to put in 225 volunteer hours, called service learning, before writing her dissertation on the value of storytelling.

Nadya has interviewed 20 people with the transcripts amounting to 500 pages, created feedback forms for volunteers and program participants, had the farm school children draw pictures of their experiences, and asked visitors at the Maple Sugar and Sheep Shearing events to express why this was their “Best Day Ever” or why they were asking “Do we have to go home now?” Her volunteers hours passed so quickly we asked her to finish her research as a part-time employee. Nadya has plenty of work ahead of her, so we can use the power of those stories to help people get to know Stratford and to support our mission in the future.

In order to prioritize the safety and well-being of our summer campers and staff, Stratford will be closed to self-guiding visitors from Monday to Friday beginning May 19 until Sept. 8. We will be open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., except holidays. Fortunately, our website is full of opportunities to take part in a variety of summer programs. These range from our consistent monthly programs to yoga on the farm, family farm chores, Gardening for Pollinators featuring Patty Shipley, founder of Leaves for Wildlife, a Honey Hoist, Gardening for Moths evening presentation by Ohio’s well-known naturalist Jim McCormac, and our annual enchanting evening fundraiser “Give to Grow Gala” at the Columbus Zoo on Aug. 22. We love to share our beautiful land so come on out.

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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