It has been the wettest spring in 30 years of farming at Stratford Ecological Center on Liberty Road. After plenty of April showers, there was snow and sleet on April 9, followed by beautiful sunshine with temperatures in the 50s on April 10, and then more daily showers this past week. The woodland paths are waterlogged and muddy, and the field work will be delayed.
This is the fourth year with poor spring weather. It is taking its toll on the soil resulting in erosion, compaction, and loss of calcium and nutrients. The livestock are unwilling to use up precious energy to slog through the farmyard to reach the fresh grass in the pasture. They depend on our hay, and their condition does not improve as it would on fresh grass. Our method of farming will likely have to change to meet the challenges.
Last fall, fields 8 and 9 were planted with spelt, Timothy grass seed and clover. The land borders U.S. Route 23, and a quick glance while motoring reveals a sea of green. The spelt provides a nurse crop for the grass and clover, and it will be cut early for hay. The two remaining crops will flourish and provide hay later in the season and for years ahead.
The Prairie thrived after the burn last March, something we could do every two to three years. Between burns, it is cut annually and this took place in mid-March. The Prairie and the fields around it drain into the pond. The north bank of the pond has space for more trees, and we intend to utilize some of the trees Farmer Jeff recently picked up through Green Columbus. The rest will fill in the gaps on the east side of fields 6 and 7 and on the Hush Trail, due to the removal of invasives by our AmeriCorps team.
The wonderful assortment of trees include a wide variety of oaks, sumac, elderberry, mulberry, cherry, black gum, sweetgum, witch hazel, persimmon, dogwood, allspice and chokeberry. They provide so much benefit, including habitat and fruit for wildlife and birds, and pollen for our own honeybees, native bees, insects and butterflies.
Wood has been the buzz word this month at Stratford. Locus logs have been used to replace the old H-shaped supports in the fence lines and gateways. The AmeriCorps team utilized space in the machine shed to create ADA approved planting boxes. They used red cedar and built various sizes that can be accessed whether standing, sitting or kneeling. These will be installed on the farm at the Methodist Theological School, our partner with AmeriCorps. Farmer Jeff purchased 560 feet of 2-by-10 green oak boards to replace the boards in the raised beds in the Children’s Garden. He purchased them from Matt and Millard Fisher who operate Clear Run Lumber Company near Marengo, Ohio, a company from which he has secured timber for special jobs since 2005.
Stratford was invited to set up a table on Sandusky Street, along with 60 plus other nonprofit organizations, at Delaware’s First Friday Event on April 1. It was a very cold night, yet an amazing number of families showed up to stroll the street. We were very pleased with the steady flow who stopped and showed interest in our farm and activities. We passed out 2022 programs and invited them to take a honey stick. The wide variety of organizations along with the good humor and sharing, made for a great evening.
During the uncharacteristic weather on April 9, the Stratford Herb Group hosted an Edible Plant Walk ID and lunch for 31 adults interested in learning more about foraging. Dressed for the weather, participants spent a guided hour searching in the woods or fields. Wild leeks were the most abundant, and these are much in demand in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia, often used to create a stew. The lunch fare included asparagus and carrot soups, crostini with wild onion cream cheese, tabouli with pine nuts, mixed salad from our greenhouse, quinoa, egg strata, black walnut and lavender cookies, elderberry and cheese scones, and six jars of herbal teas. After each person shared their favorite part of the event, the consensus was to also have a summer and fall foraging tour with lunch.
A reminder that our first big event open to the public without registration is our Llama and Sheep Shearing Day on April 23 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Another opportunity to visit Stratford and enjoy the woods is the Birds, Blooms and Breakfast event on May 7, with a tour at 6 a.m. and breakfast at 8 a.m., followed by a repeat tour for those who may not be such early birds! The same day, naturalists Linda Hass and Bob Harter invite you to join them as they lead a Wildflower Walk for adults at 10 a.m.
A new class, Adult Hatha Yoga, is scheduled on the third Thursday of the month from 2-3 p.m. through September. You can participate in the Meet the Bees Hive Tour, Meet the Pollinators Tour, as well as the Regenerative Agriculture: Farm Series for Adults, on the third Saturday of the month through September. Further information can be found on our website.
We are now open to the public on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. We continue to be open on Saturday mornings from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. We hope you can come out and enjoy some time with us.
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.