The days were sunny and approaching record temperatures at Stratford Ecological Center on Liberty Road during the week before the holidays. However, once the rains started on Dec. 25 and continued periodically through Jan. 2, the front lawn became a lake, and the barn was surrounded by water. Farmer Jeff’s boots were no match for such conditions, and his feet felt the consequences!
As the New Year continued, the sun came out, the water disappeared, and as the temperature at night dropped below 20 degrees, the ground froze. This was fortunate as the Columbus Running Company had organized a 5K race around the perimeter of the farm for Saturday, Jan. 8, with another one planned for Jan. 22. There was no way the run could safely take place across the heaved-up hog pasture, or the churned-up corn fields, after the livestock gleaned every last kernel.
The Jan. 8 race finish was at the machine shed, which necessitated moving the two big tractors outside on the day before the race. But the batteries were flat, and it took some effort to coax them to start. The Running Company representatives arrived and set up signs to mark the route. On the day of the race, the temperature was 10 degrees, and yet, 85 people aged 10-74 turned up to participate. Almost 75% were over 40! The winning 37-year-old man ran the course in 25.51 minutes, an 8.20 minute-mile; the winning 15-year-old girl in 26.09 minutes, an 8.25 minute-mile; and the youngest runner, a 10-year-old girl, came in 34.50 minutes, an 11.13 minute-mile. We look forward to hosting again on Jan. 22.
The Garden Crew came together on Friday, Dec. 7, to sort out the piles that accumulated in the Big Room and the storage closet, after a major rearranging of office space to accommodate our new Executive Director Erin Gliatta. In the rear of the building, the comfortable room with picture windows overlooking the birdfeeders, previously occupied by retired Development Director David Hoy, will become our photo and picture gallery and will display the history of Stratford.
Legend, our buck, is returning to his original owner Randee Summers this month to live out his life on her farm. A cross bred Nigerian buck, born in the spring of 2021, will replace Legend and arrive this fall in time for mating season. His breeding will add a different set of genes to our pool of Toggenburg and LaMancha nannies. Randee not only raises goats but also hens, and she would like to expand her flock with different breeds. After surveying our colorful birds, she and Farmer Jeff have reached an amicable barter agreement. Randee will relieve us of 35 surplus hens that we were going to send to the processors, in exchange for the new buck.
As the ground is now frozen, we do not have to spread our less nutritious hay, in lieu of straw we no longer bale, on the path to the orchard chicken coop. It is fortunate as hay has a shorter life span on wet ground than straw and would quickly deplete our supplies.
We continue to adjust our feed ration for the hens and hogs, to establish the fine line between contented animals or scrapping for food. The huge supply of pumpkins have been eaten by the hogs, and they continue to gain weight.
Our bull who was scheduled to leave the farm in December was actually loaded and delivered to Heffelfinger Slaughter Custom Meat on Jan. 11. He will go on to Dee Jay’s Meats for processing and then returned for sale. It took courage, patience, and a trail of hay and corn kernels to load the big, frisky animal into the trailer.
A lamb was born the evening of Jan. 8. Once again ewe #5301 was the first to give birth. Farmer Jeff was alerted by her bleating and provided needed assistance. The next day, an ewe gave birth without any problem to twins.
A number of elementary, preschool and home schools have booked maple sugar tours from mid-February through early March. Guide training is planned for Feb. 16, and we anticipate the tours with pleasure. The 2022 calendar continues to expand, including Saturday public tours to the Sugar Shack on Feb. 19 and 26, and the Maple Sugar Celebration on March 5. Details can be found on our web site.
We hope you keep well and warm this month and find time to practice a little hibernating of your own.
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.