The first frost, with temperatures in the low 20s, arrived at Stratford Ecological Center on Liberty Road Nov. 3 and killed the flowering buckwheat in field No. 3, thus ending a late food supply for our bees and other pollinators. Our bees were already devouring their honey supply. To make sure there is sufficient food for winter, Stratford’s bee team made and placed fondant icing in their hives to conserve the honey.
The night before the frost, the interns picked a mass of fat purple beans from the Children’s Garden and left them in the kitchen for all to enjoy. Volunteers went out to field No. 3 to glean the last of the plentiful long peppers. Some were red and a lot green, but those would ripen on a kitchen counter. Peppers with tooth marks from mice or other critters were collected for the hogs! That same night, a surplus of red radishes and greens earmarked for the hogs arrived from Seminary Hill Farm.
We were glad the two-inch snow held off until Saturday, Nov. 13, as on the previous Saturday — a glorious fall day — over 80 volunteers and staff took pleasure in our annual Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon. We gathered in a welcome circle on the lawn, followed by plenty of time to chat beside the patio fireplace, enjoy a hayride, and eat delicious BBQ food in the Big Room.
The hayride stopped frequently as guides shared information on the latest field crops, beehives, the thriving prairie, and the solar-powered lighting recently installed in the Prairie Pavilion for night activities, including programs and performances. We passed the blind on the east side of the pond where Josh, an Eagle Scout, and his father were busy at work on Josh’s Eagle Project to refurbish the blind. What a difference they have made with fresh stain, wood repairs, a new metal roof, and new gently rising stairs.
The luncheon ended with a closing circle, and we surprised Volunteer Coordinator Emily Rudy with a retirement gift from the board and a binder containing hand-written recipes from the volunteers.
Regarding our volunteers, through October, and despite covid restrictions which reduced normal efforts, a total of 7,180 volunteer hours were reported by 249 people, with more hours going unrecorded. Their efforts covered a myriad of activities, which makes our mission possible. The lesser-known efforts include bird house monitoring, cemetery caretaking, farm camp photographers, front desk, invasive plant management and tree planting, the library, and hundreds of hours put in by college and high school students.
The 2.5 acres of corn in field No. 6 was harvested by Nov. 11 and yielded 180 bushels, enough to handle our 2022 feed mix needs. The corn in fields No. 3 and No. 5 remains, as the moisture was in the 21-23% range. Despite the rain and snow since then, the moisture will continue to drop, and after a hard freeze, Farmer Jeff will harvest the cobs and store them in wagons in the machine shed. He plans to wait until next spring to work the ground and plant rye or oats.
Stratford has always been a friend and mentor to the Delaware County Master Gardener Association, and this year, the association nominated Stratford and we were awarded the “2021 Friends of Master Gardener Volunteers” from the OSU Extension MGV program. The award honors one organization each year for their outstanding service or support. With 3,000 Master Gardeners from 62 counties in Ohio, both the Delaware association and Stratford are proud to be recognized by this award. We look forward to many years of mutual support.
By Thanksgiving, life at Stratford will be quieter; the education interns will be gone, and farm school, field trips and Messages from the Earth end until maple sugaring in February. It is a time of reflection on the year’s activities and planning for next year. We wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving.
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.