Children enjoy a tea party in Stratford

The rain stopped for the Herb Group Children’s Tea Party on August 4 at the Stratford Ecological Center on Liberty Road. The group has been offering the hands-on event for young children since 2013, and it continues to sell out. They have experienced some loss of membership during COVID, but luckily committed new members have bravely signed up to help. The children collected eggs, tomatoes and cucumbers and made open sandwiches. They chose fragrant herbs for their own hot pot of tea. We provided herb cookies, lemon pies and fruit salad. A dilemma for new members was avoided when no one asked when making the sandwich why the eggs were hard.

We installed two large television screens in the great room a few years ago. They have been a great asset in sharing information at various meetings. We took it a step further a month ago when we bought two microscopes, both with a built-in camera, which allow us to send images via HDMI to monitors. A microscope is a stereoscope with 20x and 40x magnification, used to observe rocks, insects, plants, and similar sized objects. The other is a compound scope with 40x, 100x and 400x magnification. It is used to watch and in small objects like protozoa, algae and other microorganisms. Next year we hope to offer courses in the use of these new microscopes.

The grass at the Paw Paw Coop has had a chance to regenerate, and after the bloom has been cut, the chickens are now allowed to roam freely. On August 11, the narrow brick patio, laid over the new drainage tile around the chicken coop, was completed by farmhands Mary and Gary and interns Molly and Savannah. The daylilies have been lined up on either side of the front door, and it only remains to be seen if the place will stay dry after the next heavy rain.

It was good news to learn that nearly an acre of fast growing sunflowers have been planted in field 3. They are fun for everyone, and school children love to walk in a sunflower corn, pick a flower head and push it through the wire. fence to feed the hens. In the same field, four 200-foot-long rows were planted with green beans for delivery to People in Need.

A planting of buckwheat, rye and oats now surrounds the corn in fields 3 and 6. The hope is that they will provide a diversion for deer this fall, and the corn will remain intact. Due to the long drought after planting and then heavy rains, there are some sparse spots in the maize. Farmer Jeff was able to come in and cultivate between the rows with cultivator Lilliston to get rid of the ragweed.

On August 11, Jeff led a ROAR Academy tour group to see firsthand the effect of climate change on soil. He showed them the North Pasture, which had been sacrificed last winter to cattle for grazing. Their hooves usually open up the ground and their manure fertilizes it. However, upon close inspection, the top layer of soil was found to be heavily compacted. Nutrient levels were lower than when Jeff started raising them 30 years ago. The rain falls so hard these days that it creates a pan on the surface, preventing the absorption of water and air. This affects the balance of everything in the soil and results in nutrient deficient crops for human and animal consumption. The group was also taken to the grassland where it was hoped that the undisturbed deep-rooted soil would absorb the rains and retain its nutrients. However, even here they found that the soil was no different from that of the northern pasture. It was a startling and worrying revelation for our future food production, with no miracle solution at hand.

The farm camp for 3 to 5 year olds ended the season on August 12. Last week, the camp interns cleared out and by mid-week were off to continue their lives off the farm. It has been a good summer and we are grateful for their efforts to ensure that the camp experience is the best it can be. We wish them good luck.

We need more volunteers for all of our programs, but especially for our fall grade 5 Earth Messages science program and our farm and nature tours. In order to share the many volunteer opportunities, we are hosting an open farm day from 4-7 p.m. on Wednesday, August 31. To RSVP, please visit our website under Events Calendar and let us know you are coming. Our hours of operation to the public are expected to increase this fall, and the latest update can be found on our website.

Pauline Scott is an agricultural guide and naturalist at the Stratford Ecological Center, 3083 Liberty Road, Delaware. She can be reached at 740-363-2548 or by email at [email protected] Website:

About Marco C. Nichols

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