Cottrel: New life for old school grounds in Mad River Twp.

Although it has been closed for a few decades, Boone Station School on Old Mill Road in Mad River Township has always seemed to have such potential to me.

Recently an increase in activity around the buildings and grounds at 1215 Old Mill Road got my hopes up.

Had a new use been found for Boone Station School?

Just in case you are not familiar with the building, the first Boone Station School was at the corner of Old Mill and Dayton Road. That building became a Baptist church when a new school was built in 1929. Additions were added to Boone Station School in the 1950s and 1960s. It closed as a school in 1983 and was used as the Mad River Green and the Clark County school board offices for a few years around 2000. Then there were a couple of decades of quiet.

As I pulled into parking at the southwest corner of the property I found a new wooden building, a tent and photo props for Halloween. Behind that I was greeted by 13 acres of sunflowers in various stages of growth.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen those fields in use.

Barb Colliton from Old Thyme Growers introduced me to the new life of the Boone Station School grounds. Her family is leasing the land south and west behind the school building.

For her family, summer of 2022 was dedicated to making the gently rolling land farmable again. Plots of various sunflowers and vegetables were planted every two weeks that spread the blooming and vegetable yield over months instead of weeks.

Each plot was separated by mowed grass lanes that made a tour of the property easy. It is also good to note that no sprays are used on the fields.

Old Thyme Growers at Mill Iron Farm is located at 1215 Old Mill Road. During October it is open on Thursdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. This farm offers hayrides, pick-your-own sunflowers, and the opportunity to hike and explore the acreage. Snack bar items can be enjoyed around a campfire. There is an outdoor movie on Saturday night if weather cooperates. And of course there are great opportunities for photos all over the grounds.

Until Halloween there will be cheerful hayrides during the day and mildly haunted hayrides at night from dark until midnight. Because there aren’t many lights nearby, a bonus treat for those on hayrides is the view of the sky full of stars.

Next summer in addition to normal vegetables, Colliton wants to focus on growing heirloom vegetables. She hopes to plant Mr. Stripey, Cherokee Purple, and white Snowball tomatoes.

An Appalachian variety of green beans called “Greasy Beans’ will be planted next spring. Some folks call these half runners.

She explained that the “new” greasy bean seeds she intends to use were grown from seeds found under the floor boards of an old cabin in Kentucky.

This week Old Thyme Growers hopes to still have a few sunflowers for sale until the hard frost takes them out.

I must admit, wandering around the property on a sunny afternoon, picking out a bouquet for church was indeed delightful. There were all sorts of pollinators and some butterflies to see as well. All were striving to gather up that last bit of pollen before the hard freezes. Wooly bear caterpillars gave me such a variety of weather predictions that I doubted their reliability.

“It’s fun to pick your own by yourself,” said Lisa Pacelli from Springfield. She found the whole experience to be relaxing.

Recently harvested seeds are for sale for planting next spring. People can also purchase mature sunflowers to feed the birds in their own back yard.

The winter birds will no doubt appreciate the sunflower seed heads as much as we appreciated the flowers this fall.

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