Life at Stratford Ecological Center on Liberty Road moved into high gear the week after Labor Day. Fifth graders arrived to take part in our outdoor science program “Messages from the Earth.” This program is intended to reinforce their school science curriculum, and each child visits for a total of five days during the fall, winter and spring. The wasps and yellow jackets proved to be a bit of a problem as kids moved logs around the campfire at the Sugar Shack, but with plenty of TLC, the kids endured their up-close and personal encounters.
The farm and nature guides met for two mornings of training, with introductions in the classroom, followed by plenty of guidance on how to be “Leaders of Learners” as the group moved through the gardens, barn, fields and woodland. We were pleased to see new faces, men and women, who will shadow until they feel comfortable leading a group of eight children on their own.
Two new education interns have come on board. Audrey and Alayna are familiar with Stratford, after spending many years at farm camp and as junior camp counselors. Both are founding members of our newly created Young Professional Advisory Council (YPAC), whose objective is to expand Stratford’s mission to a broader community of young adults.
Lana, our spring education intern and senior camp counselor, left to begin an internship at Hidden Villa in Los Altos Hills, California. We look forward to her insider updates, as Stratford is based on Hidden Villa’s mission to offer experiential education in nature and operate an organic farm. Gale Warner, daughter of Stratford’s founders Jack and Louise Warner, interned there in 1983. When Louise inherited the land from her parents, it was Gale who proposed and created a plan for Stratford, which remains the basis of our operation.
For several days in early September, the tables in the Big Room were covered with beautiful silent and online auction items in preparation for our annual Enchanted Evening held on Sept. 9 at the Africa Event Center at the Columbus Zoo. In spite of COVID, we felt safe going ahead with our plans as the center has wide sliding glass doors leading to a large outdoor deck overlooking the savanna, allowing people to congregate outside.
The weather cooperated during the event, except for a few heavy gusts of wind, which sent programs and napkins flying off the tables! The rreasures of Stratford — the volunteers — were recognized and thanked for being the backbone of Stratford. The live auction was fun as two people vied to win the bid to “Fulfill Your Farm Fantasy” and spend a day on the farm with family and friends. Two others pitted against each other to win the “Farm Camp for 2.” In the end, both items were offered twice, if bidders were willing to pay the final bid, and all agreed! The online auction, with over 37 items, runs through 9 p.m. on Sept. 19 at https://bid.howardauctions.net/Public.
We now have three calves born since July 30: Boots, Chip and Betty. Chip was born on Aug. 23, and Betty, a heifer, was born on Aug. 30. Her mother is a 2-year-old Holstein/Jersey cross with a neat black body and white head. The two were brought into the barn and housed for a week. Farmer Jeff was afraid her well-formed udder would engorge, possibly leading to mastitis, if she were allowed to graze on the rich grass. He milked her twice by hand in her pen to reduce the pressure, something he has not done for some years with any of our cows, and she cooperated!
Two batches of our lambs have been processed, and the meat is available for purchase. On Sept. 7, eight goat kids (five boys and three girls) plus one nanny goat were delivered to the auction market in Fredericktown. We don’t have a lot of requests for goat meat, so we limit how many we raise. All the kids will be purchased for further fattening, or the females for breeding. At the same time, we delivered two nannies to the processors, and the meat will be returned to Stratford for sale.
The first week after Labor Day continued busy with 326 hay bales added to our supply in the loft. We had hoped to graze half of field 6, but we ended up cutting and baling it as, through no lack of trying, we could not rely on the electric fence to keep the cows out of the ripening corn in the other half. Last Tuesday, we brought in a load-and-a-half from fields 2 & 3 in front of the rains, putting us in a good position to see us through the winter.
Regarding our “tomato” experiment, it appears the staked tomatoes in field 3 are doing better than either the caged or non-supported plants. The height of the cherry tomatoes from east to west look like a line of K through 12th graders. Farmer Jeff said that even in a small area, the soil, water, and sunlight all make a difference in growth.
Farm School for students 6-12 years old started on Sept. 17, with Farm Pre-School for ages 4-5 starting on Sept. 20. This program offers children a one-day learning experience outside. Details relating to Farm School and other opportunities to visit Stratford can be found on our website.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: StratfordEcologicalCenter.org.