Last updated: June 20. 2014 5:46PM - 509 Views

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By Pauline Scott

The last month has brought some perfect sunny days, but on more than one occasion there have been just enough April-like showers to keep us out of the fields and cause delays with planting and haying at Stratford Ecological Center on Liberty Road.

Farmer Jeff took a risk and made the first cutting of hay on Memorial Day. The color of the handsome green bales gave away the fact that the moisture content was too high. The bales were spaced out in the hay loft, with the narrow side down to avoid rotting the twine, and three large floor fans switched on to circulate the air.

About seventy percent of the bales have dried well enough to stack. The remainder has developed a powdery mold, evident when picked up and subjected to the “shake test.” It is still edible, and will be used to build up the nanny goats after the weather extremes of last winter and the birth of eight kids.

The soil in field #6 was dry enough to sow half in corn on June 3, just two days before the last recommended planting date to avoid lower yields, and has sprouted well. The acre of buckwheat in field #3 flowered this week and is a picture of prolific white blooms. Crowd pleasing sunflowers have been planted in this field. Here too, agriculture interns including one rookie female teenager, worked hard to plant and irrigate summer vegetables for PIN, U-pick, the camper’s farm market, and taste tests for school groups.

Last Tuesday a couple of the regular crew was grateful for the breeze as they planted peppers in one of the “stink bug” research beds. The peppers attract parasitoid insects. They lay their eggs on top of the eggs that the stink bug laid on the adjacent blackberries and corn. The parasitoid offspring nourishes itself on the stink bug egg and neatly eliminates the next generation. Now that is what I call cool!

A Tuesday crew member shared with me we obviously now have a Tuesday crew consisting of women. He heard one woman describe herself as such, which caused him great angst as he could not recall any women on his crew! We do indeed. Half a dozen women come out and work in any section of the landscape, planting and weeding in the vegetable or flower beds, and taking pride and pleasure in “keeping up appearances.”

Farm camp is in full swing as kids swing from the trees on the front lawn and revel in simply being outdoors. I have yet to hear of one camper who does not love being here. They seem to “get hooked” during this week apart from everyday life.

Ed Nagel is in charge of the weekly fishing experience at the pond. No matter the age, very few campers have any experience of fishing. The camper uses a rod with a reel and a line with a weight and slip bobber. After attaching a one-inch worm on a size L hook the camper can cast to a depth of 4 feet. The worms donated to us by Countyline Fishin’ Supply on Sunbury Road in Westerville will lure the 2” bluegill, 12-14” crappie and 13” large mouth bass. Ed offers advice on the need to reel in slowly without jerking the rod, and tips on releasing the fish. Ed admits he is tired at the end of the day, as his help is usually required by every camper once fishing gets underway.

The positive result of rain is lush grass, and for once we have the option of two grazing areas for our animals. The cows no longer miss their calves, and they are getting along well with the bull. The calves and lambs are putting on weight. A few lambs have been processed and their meat is available next week. As a result of a new virus in the U.S., which has caused the death of numerous baby pigs, no feeder pigs have been moved on to the farm. The bees have been busy and some lucky folks have dipped their finger into a comb in a hive, and were delighted with the taste.

There will be plenty of opportunity on Saturday, June 28, from 8 am until noon, to help harvest honey at Stratford. The hives will be opened and frames taken to the ‘Honey House’ to extract the honey. The reservation fee is $25 per person and includes the option to stay for the afternoon Honey Bee Festival. The Festival is open to all from noon to 4 pm., for a $5 per car charge. Information on the problems facing bee keepers will be shared, as well as opportunities to learn about our Apiary, watch honey extraction and buy products.

There are many times in the next month to prepare or eat food at Stratford. Check our web site for further details on: Cooking with Seasonal Ingredients; Cooking Club for Kids; Jams and Jellies Preservation; Adult Farm Camp; and an adult/child Garden Tea Party. AFC will meet on three Tuesday evenings and starts with an innovative meal prepared by our education trainee chef, followed by hands-on learning about goats, chickens and forage crops. During the GTP the children collect and prepare traditional tea foods. We hope we have wet your appetite and you will join us sometime!

Pauline Scott is a farm and nature guide at Stratford Ecological Center, 3083 Liberty Road, Delaware, Ohio 43015. Tel. 740 363-2548. Email office@stratfordecologicalcenter.org or visit our web site StratfordEcologicalCenter.org

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