The well-below-freezing temperatures since mid-January, and the heavy snowfall overnight on Feb. 3 at Stratford Ecological Center on Liberty Road, has restricted movement of the cows to the barn yard and pens in the barn.
Once the ewes and nanny goats started birthing, they were restricted to the barn. Lambs and kids born outside in wet, cold conditions easily succumb. For the first few days, the mother and newborn have the luxury of a private pen known as a jug, where they have a chance to bond but still remain close to the flock. We have 12 lambs and six kids who arrived earlier than expected, with more of both due. One new-born kid exhibited unsteady balance and weakness. This is a sure sign of lack of selenium from his mother due to lower than desirable amounts in our soil. Farmer Jeff remedied the problem with an injection of selenium, as well as an injection of vitamin B, to fortify him until he was feeding enough and producing his own, and the kid was perky within 24 hours.
Four hogs were delivered to the processor on Feb. 1. They were much easier to load than last month’s bull. Their total live weight was 800 pounds, and we should receive at least 300 pounds of pork, as well as lard, which makes excellent pastry. The bull weighed 1,350 pounds; we now have plenty of beef in our freezer, and by all accounts it’s delicious. We have a lot of soup bones for sale from last year. Soup sounds very appealing these days.
The farmhands began preparations at the Sugar Shack on Feb. 1. On Feb. 8, they tapped 180 maple trees and hung the buckets. With temperatures under freezing during the day, the sap has been slow to flow, but with the recent warming, the cooks are in good shape to demonstrate the process to our first visitors.
The hens are beginning to lay more eggs. The Paw Paw Coop and Portable Coop needed cleaning out, and the date was set for Feb. 9. Carol, a farmhand, has been doing this task for the last four years. In the past, I have studiously avoided the job, but this year, I felt the pull to do some manual labor and help her out, and she graciously accepted my offer.
Fortunately for us, the sun shone in a blue sky that day. The hens were shooed out, and the dirty bedding forked into the back of the small Kubota and driven to the compost heap in the North Pasture. As the Kubota has four-wheel drive, Carol had no problem driving through the deep snow, and the ability to raise and lower the back ensured that part of the job was a piece of cake. Once the floor was swept, Diatomaceous Earth, a sharp-edged powder made from silica, was spread to absorb the fats and oils of parasites and eliminate them. Finally, the floor and nesting boxes were topped with a layer of clean straw. Carol was a good teacher, and unlike many of her helpers, I plan to return on occasion!
Paula Ziebarth, the Delaware County area contact for the Ohio Bluebird Society, supplied the 2021 Bird Trail Report for Stratford. Presently, there are 60 gourds available for purple martins and 42 nest boxes for tree swallows, eastern bluebirds, Carolina chickadees and house wrens. The birds continue to make the farm their home. The 229 fledged purple martins was the second best in 13 years of monitoring. The tree swallows fledged 134 birds, their best ever. The eastern bluebirds fledged 35, their second best. It takes a lot of effort by volunteers to monitor and care for the nests, to ensure healthy fledglings. They eat an incredible number of insects, which ensures healthy plants, comfortable cattle and visitors.
Stratford offers their Big Room free of charge to like-minded groups seeking a meeting place. Julie Platz, a past camp intern currently employed by American Farmland Trust as an Ohio Conservation Technician, led a Women’s Conservation Learning Circle on Feb. 9. She will offer three more sessions. The circle helps women, farming on any scale, to access resources and become part of a network to support their success. It was impressive to see so many women, and a boost to our morale to know they are protecting the land and incorporating better farming practices to avoid erosion.
You can register for public events happening through April 9 on our website. On March 8, the Delaware County Master Gardeners are presenting a Weed Identification program from 1:30-4:30 p.m.
Once the snow melts, we hope you will look for and find signs of spring in your flower beds.
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.